"Everyone loves a great glass of wine, but shopping for wine can be confusing."
Those were the words that Bethenny Frankel, the television personality who made her debut on "The Real Housewives of New York City" and later launched the Skinnygirl line of beverages, clothing and workout products, wrote on the label of her Skinnygirl California White Wine.
Some would agree, perhaps daunted by the array of grape names and appellations in the wine aisle. But is the answer to put more information on the label?
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is counting on the idea that consumers want to know nearly as much about what's in their wine, beer or spirits as they do when they pick up a breakfast burrito in the grocery store.
After nearly a decade of pressure from consumer groups, the TTB released guidelines last month on how wine, beer and liquor companies can tell consumers about the calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats inside the bottle.
The guidelines are voluntary, for now, but some industry veterans fear nutrition labels will become mandatory for alcohol companies down the road.
But when drinkers are kicking back to enjoy a Russian River chardonnay, are they really thinking about calories and carbs? And is there enough variation in calories from one glass of wine to the next to make the whole exercise worthwhile?
There are as many opinions on the matter as there are grape names, and whether wineries and breweries will choose to shoulder the cost of laboratory analysis and new labels remains to be seen.
"It's government interfering where we don't really need government to interfere," said Simon Inman, attorney at Carle, Mackie, Power & Ross in Santa Rosa. "We have enough regulation to deal with as it is. ... I'm just wondering what useful info we're going to impart on consumers. The label is already crowded."
But consumers are increasingly interested in learning about the source of their foods, and exactly what they're about to ingest. And with smartphone applications, it's easier than ever to track the calories one consumes throughout the day.
Typically, a glass of red wine packs about 125 calories, while white wines contain about 121 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Chardonnay weighs in at 123 calories and 3.2 grams of carbohydrates, while a meatier varietal like zinfandel contains 129 calories and 4.2 grams of carbs. Most wines contain no fat and virtually no protein. Sweet desert wines can contain as much as 165 calories and carbohydrates can reach around 14 grams in a 3.5 fluid ounce serving.
Some wine companies are making the bet, and the investment, that consumers will want to know more about the nutritional characteristics of their wine.
Pedroncelli Winery in Geyserville is one of them. The company added a QR code, a type of bar code, to its white wines from the 2011 vintage and its red wines from 2012. Scanning the code with a smartphone launches a webpage that lists facts about the wine, such as its alcohol level, acidity, how long the juice was in oak barrels and other details oenophiles like to know. Over the next few months the winery will work to add nutritional information such as calories and ingredients, said Julie Pedroncelli St. John, vice president and marketing director.
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