The California Legislature has taken the first step toward putting warning labels on beverages containing high amounts of sugar, saying it contributes to health problems.
Can wine be far behind?
Warning labels are required on all alcoholic beverages ever since the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act of 1988 required them when it was made into law. At the time the wine industry was irate, saying no one would read the statement and that it added an unnecessary expense to wines.
And they added that such a statement would dissuade no wine lovers from buying their favorite sauvignon blanc.
Last week the California state Senate passed, and sent to the Assembly, a bill that would require beverages with added sugars to carry a statement that "Drinking beverages with added sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."
Many wines these days contain sugars, such as Moscato, dessert wines, and even some of the new sweet red wines. As a result, some in the industry may fear that the soda-sweetness warning-label bill could eventually be extended to wine.
Have little fear. It's unlikely wine would ever be targeted for its sweetness content, and one key reason is the operative phrase "added sugars."
Almost all wines that are sweet do not have sugars added; any sugars in wine are usually the result of stopping the fermentation before all the sugar is turned into alcohol. (In California, it's not legal to use sugar in the making of wine.)
Another important point is that the sugar in all but the sweetest dessert wines is nominal, usually well under the level found in soft drinks. In most off-dry wines, like Riesling, the amount of sugar is rarely more than 3 percent.
Still, the California beverage bill is troubling because a few legislators would love to applaud themselves as doing something about a problem that otherwise has no real solution.
Thinking of ways to protect Americans from themselves, Congress (since it's not doing very much of anything these days) might imagine the multitude of warning labels that it could mandate for various products:
On microwaves: "Warning: Do not insert pets."
On shovels: "Warning: This is not a fly swatter."
On bungee cords: "Warning: Just because Angus MacGyver did it doesn't mean it will actually work."
On lawn mowers: "Warning: Do not use for haircuts."
On electric irons: "Warning: If using as a paper weight, do not plug in."
On pencils: "Warning: Do not use in place of cotton swabs."
And of course there is the one warning that Congress completely forgot to add to the current Government Warning on all alcoholic beverages:
If you think this is a joke, just remember: Real-world legislators actually think they are doing something when they pass such warning legislation.
Dan Berger lives in Sonoma County, where he publishes "Vintage Experiences," a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him email@example.com.