Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is It Wine?

There's apparently still a battle going on between the Washington State Liquor Control Board and Washington's wine industry over Franzia's labeling. An article on Seattlest on May 16 quotes Syd Abrams, former lobbyist for the California Wine Institute, now a partner in a large Washington vineyard: "It's not wine. It's not right."
Looking out for his private interests now, Abrams finds it curious that Washington State's notoriously slack Liquor Board was letting one particular California producer get away with the enological equivalent of murder. Boxed "wine" from Franzia, specifically. Turns out, it's not even affront to legitimate producers, and a violation of the Liquor Board's own injunction against labeling that misleads consumers.

The phrase in question is "Table Wine With Natural Flavorings." In fact, says Abrams, the contents of the Franzia box should be called "Flavored Wine Product," which would require Franzia to list the ingredients (including whatever distilled products are used to provide the alcohol content; Abrams doubts that it's actually wine) and taxed as such. Franzia does provide a nutrition chart that skirts the question.

Seattlest: It's Not Wine

Actually, the "wines" in question represent one third of Franzia's lineup. Five of their fifteen boxed wines are the highly questionable "table wines with natural flavors." These are the five wines offered in the "House Wine Favorites" group.

Another five of Franzia's wines are the "Old World Classics." These are "American wines" and laws state that this description allows them to contain up to 25% imported product. Wine industry sources state the import is usually bulk wine from Australia. These wines are not labeled "table wine with natural flavors," and they are apparently unadulterated wine.

The last five wines are the "Vintner Select" group. These are labled "California" wines. To comply with California law, any wine labled "California wine" must contain California wine, and ONLY California wine. No "natural flavors," no Australian bulk wine. To be sure, there is clearly a lot of blending going on to produce a consistently inoffensive product, but again, it is all unadulterated wine.

Personally, I find Franzia's "House Wine Favorites" to be quite undrinkable. Kool-Aid with alcohol. A pounding headache in a box. I would run away screaming if someone offered me a glass of Franzia "Chillable Red."

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