Thursday, May 20, 2004

Wine drinkers can check labels for low-carb, low-fat declaration

By Michelle Locke
The Associated Press

RUTHERFORD, Calif. - Ever wonder if that full-bodied wine will leave you in a similar condition? Some wineries are tapping into consumers' low-carb cravings with new labels listing calorie and carbohydrate counts.

Some see the trend as a way for the premium wine industry to connect with customers who want to know how many carbs are in their chardonnay.

"People want this information and we have a good story to tell," said Ray Chadwick, president of Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, owner of Beaulieu Vineyard.

Beer companies already are marketing low-carb versions of their product and the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau recently said alcoholic beverage producers may list calorie and carbohydrate content on labels.

Most dry wines are already well below the 7 grams per serving threshold set for calling a beverage low-carb. The new rules say fat and protein (wine has none of the former and only a trace of the latter) must be listed along with calories and carbs. They forbid any implication that low-carb alcohol can play a healthy role in losing or maintaining weight.

Diageo, which had been studying nutritional labeling for some time, plans to do that with its BV Coastal, Sterling Vintners Collection and Century Cellars brands. The information will go on labels hung around the top of the bottle, known as bottle neckers.

A sample for BV Coastal Estates 2002 chardonnay bills the wine as "Low Carbs, High Standards," and says a 5-ounce serving contains 3 grams of carbohydrates, 124 calories, less than 1 gram of protein and no fat.

Also giving the lowdown on low carbs is Sutter Home Family Vineyards, which will be using bottle neckers and listing nutritional information on its Web site. Its listings include 122 calories and 2.7 grams of carbs for the 2002 sauvignon blanc and 119 calories and 4.1 grams of carb for the 2002 merlot.

Kentucky-based Brown-Forman is making special, low-carb wines, One.6 Chardonnay and One.9 Merlot, named after the number of carbohydrates in a 5-ounce serving. Brown-Foreman makes Jack Daniel's and Southern Comfort and also is a leading wine producer.

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