Ever tasted a red wine which claimed to be from Burgundy on the label but tasted nothing like what you would expect from a Burgundy pinot noir? As discussed in recent posts, where a product is from is important, whether it be tea from Darjeeling, cucumbers from Lea Valley in Hertfordshire, or wines from Champagne or Chianti. With regards to wine, there is no ingredient more important than location: it is the combination of the land, air, water and weather where grapes are grown which makes each wine unique.
A particular problem has arisen in that sometimes the grapes used in a wine were not actually grown in the region claimed. For instance, one of the most commonly misused names is 'sherry', the Anglicized name for the distinctive fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez in Spain. Often what one gets in 'sherry' in UK wine shops and supermarkets does not contain grapes from Jerez nor bear any relation to the renowned wines from southern Spain. Further, in other instances, wineries from X blend 70% foreign grapes with 30% grapes from X and label it as 'Cellared In X'.
On 26 July 2005, a Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin (commonly known as the Napa Declaration on Place) was signed as a 'declaration of joint principles stating the importance of location to wine and the need to protect place names'. It is now supported by 15 international wine regions: Champagne, France; Chianti Classico, Italy; Jerez, Spain; Long Island, New York; Napa Valley; Oregon state; Paso Robles; Porto, Portugal; Rioja, Spain; Sonoma County; Tokaj, Hungary; Victoria, Australia; Walla Walla Valley, Washington; Washington state; and Western Australia.
On behalf of the signatories to the Declaration, Public Opinion Strategies conducted a survey of 1,000 wine drinkers. The results were released last week and report that:
- 70% would be less likely to buy wines with misleading labels;
- 79% consider the region where a wine comes from an important factor when buying a bottle of wine;
- 75% would be less likely to buy a wine if they learned that it claimed to be from a place like Champagne, Napa Valley or Oregon, but was not;
- 96% say consumers deserve to know that the location where wine grapes are grown is accurately stated on wine labels; and
- 98% support establishing worldwide standards for all winemakers that would require that they accurately state the location where wine grapes are grown on wine labels.
Merpel, with her refined palate, thinks that life is too short to drink incorrectly labelled wine: if it says Champagne on the label, it better be Champagne in the bottle!