Waiting for label approvals

From John, August 19th, 2011

The 2010 Guiliano labelMany wine consumers may not be aware that each and every wine package that they see on store shelves has had to go through a vetting process by a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. Certain information such as percentage of alcohol, brand names and warning labels must be present in order to obtain an approval. Other information such as appellation, net contents and presence of sulfites, whether a wine has certified organic grapes or some other certification are all considered. With the thousands of labels that enter the U.S. market each year, the Treasury Department must devote significant resources toward the approval process.

I therefore greet with considerable dismay the continuing cutbacks in a “meat axe” fashion that the so-called pro-business party has levied against the federal government. Prior to their most recent attacks on the government, it would take approximately 2 weeks to get a label approved via the on-line process that has been developed and occasionally it might take only a week. With reduced staff, it now takes at least 6-8 weeks to receive an approval. This is a huge imposition for a small business with product which needs to be sold in order to meet payroll and other concerns.

For a small winery such as Cameron, decisions regarding possible blends are often made at the last minute since individual barrels often age quite differently. For example, in the course of recent blending for our 2009 single-vineyard Pinot noirs (Arley’s Leap, Abbey Ridge and Clos Electrique) we found that the best wine from each of these groups came from only a portion of the barrels. So we decided to blend the remaining wine into a super-blend of Dundee Hills which we will call “Reserve” since it was aged for nearly 2 years. At the point of deciding on this blend for a new wine, we immediately created a new label and submitted it for approval.

And now we wait….and wait …..and wait while the Republican Party slashes funding and threatens to shut down the Federal Government as if this is just some big game. And I’m sure that for the politicians in Washington and the multi-national corporations who own them, this is a big game. But for small businesses such as ours this is a very serious game with dire consequences affecting our ability to survive and employ people.

The next time that you cavalierly declare that “government is the enemy” and must be eliminated perhaps you can try putting that weighty mass between your ears to work and perhaps consider all of the things that “government” does for you. You might consider just for starters the roads that you drive on, the airports that you fly in and out of, the weather service that gives you forecasts, the National Institutes of Health that funds medical research, the National Forest Service that maintains our forests for commerce and recreation, and the Treasury Department that tries to make sense of wine labels so that you, the consumer, can actually receive trustworthy and useful information on the bottles of wine that you purchase.

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