New Rule May Change Wine Origin Labeling

When consumers buy bottles of wine labeled as coming from Napa Valley, California, it makes sense for them to assume that they are having a drink from one of the most famous winemaking regions in the world.

However, as it turns out, this particular label does not necessarily mean what it seems to. Just because a wine uses grapes grown in Napa Valley doesn't mean that it is made there, as some wineries source their grapes from across the country.

"Just because a wine uses grapes grown in Napa Valley doesn't mean that it is made there."

A proposed rule to the existing federal regulation may soon prevent wine makers from using Napa Valley labels unless they are physically located within California and produce and bottle their wine entirely in the state.

The Napa Valley Register reports that a longstanding loophole has allowed wine makers to cite American Viticultural Area names as their products' place of origin, even if the actual wine was finished somewhere else. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is considering closing this loophole with its new proposal.

"This loophole allows unscrupulous companies to deceive consumers," wrote Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., whose district includes Napa Valley. 

However, some critics of the rule believe that it will deprive the customer of needed information. David Lecomte, chief winemaker at City Winery, told the news source that some wineries wouldn't be able to say where their wine came from – which would significantly hurt their sales.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is currently accepting comment on the issue.

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