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What’s Allowed In Your Wine and its Winemaking

There’s recently been a bit of a fuss about some proposed changes to wine labeling in this country. That discussion at the very least raises the issue that most consumers have no idea what is both commonly, and also occasionally, done to their wine during winemaking, and what ends up in the bottle.

Careful. Don’t freak out. This is not an alarmist rant, nor should you turn it into one. Many of these things have been done to wine for centuries. It’s good for you to know however, what is allowed.

According to a report by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, the following additives, treatments and processes are currently allowed in the United States and my understanding of what each is used for:




One of the interesting aspects of this report is that it compares what is allowed under the laws of the United States, the European Union, Switzerland, and the OIVs own guidelines. Lots of people like to think that American is wildly lenient and unregulated when it comes to additives and processing in wine, but this report makes it clear that is not the case. Most of this stuff, with a few notable exceptions is perfectly legal in France and Italy as well — two places that are often held up as bastions of “traditional” winemaking practices. Of course, these are just regulations about what is allowed under law, we don’t know what is actually used.

Which brings me to the “so what” of this list. It’s clear that we need a combination of better consumer education and better labeling laws so that people can fully understand what has been used to make their wine, and what is actually in the wine bottle that they pull off the shelf.

Not being a professional winemaker, this list also makes me wonder what is the absolute minimum amount of these additives or materials that needs to be used in winemaking. Is it possible to make a wine with none of the above?

Thanks to Alfonso, who runs the blog On The Wine Trail in Italy, for sending me the link. Now excuse me while I go figure out how to add diammonium phosphate as a descriptor in my tasting notes.

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