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Wine Labels With Nothing to Hide Finds That Few Are Looking

on 11/10/12 at 2:26 pm


PITY the revolutionary who, in a leap of faith, takes a brave and principled stand, possibly at great financial risk — and yet nobody seems to notice.

Such is the woeful tale of Randall Grahm, proprietor of Bonny Doon Vineyard. Five years ago, Mr. Grahm took the possibly imprudent step of deciding to list on every bottle all the ingredients used in producing his wine.

His initiative could easily have had negative consequences. After all, the romantic notion of fine wine as nothing more than fermented grapes is powerful. Consumers might look askance at a list that includes, without explanation, even fairly benign items like yeast nutrients, tartaric acid, sulfur dioxide or French oak chips.

But just as easily, Mr. Grahm might have been applauded for taking a bold step in favor of consumer transparency.

Instead, he felt the wind of chilly indifference. The silence left Mr. Grahm, who revels in playing the provocateur, scratching his head.

“I imagined it would have an impact,” he said by telephone. “I wasn’t sure if there would be a backlash, or they would be freaked out, but most people haven’t really noticed. In a perfect outcome, I would have liked to see interest, and gradually the start of a drumbeat about transparency.”