Red Wine Is Good For You, But The Government Keeps It A Secret

The health benefits of red wine have been the subject of media reports for at least the past 15 years, but wine producers seldom talk about it, because they’re afraid to:

NAPA, Calif., Nov. 19 — The wine industry certainly has welcomed the recent disclosures that a compound in red wine improves the health and endurance of laboratory mice. So why aren’t they crowing about it?

Because they can’t. The industry has long been handcuffed by state and federal laws that discourage promoting the benefits of wine, with some of those restrictions dating back to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

“Yes, we’d all like to make hay of this, and we’ll do what we can, but we are very constrained,” said Michael Mondavi, founder and president of Folio Fine Wine Partners, a producer and importer of wines here.

As an industry that is closely regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Mr. Mondavi said, “it is blatantly against the law for any alcoholic beverage producers to make any health claim regardless of the facts or the accuracy.”

“Until that regulation is changed or modified in some way so that we can talk about the positive health aspects that are proven,” said Mr. Mondavi, the older son of famed winemaker Robert Mondavi, “we have to sit on our hands and wait for others to pick up the story.”

In other words, there’s a product out there that may have health benefits but the people who produce it are forbidden from even discussing those benefits because our benefactors in Washington, D.C. prevent them from doing so and allowing the rest of us to decide for ourselves whether or not to drink red wine.

And what happens when they try to challenge those rules ?

In 1991, some aggressive winemakers sought to trumpet the health benefits of wine, but they were quickly shut down by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which then regulated the industry at the federal level. Even the industry’s trade organization, the Wine Institute, counseled against promoting wine as a health drink.

Mr. Mondavi, who was then involved in running his family business, the Robert Mondavi Corporation, was one of those who chafed at the strictures.

“We actually resigned from the Wine Institute because we wanted to come out and say wine is healthy and good for you,” Mr. Mondavi said.

“We put on a back label, that wine is healthy and recommended in the Bible,” he added. “The B.A.T.F. sent us a cease and desist letter and made us change the label even though we went back to Washington and showed them the scientific evidence and read them the Bible passages.”

In other words, Big Brother is watching what you drink.

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  • winehiker

    Perhaps it is no more than a checks-and-balances issue. It’s probably just as well that the wine industry should allow others to be their proponents, anyway. Plus, it’s not like the wine industry has to beg for support — there are legions of wine fans across the nation who are quite willing to spread the notion of wine’s health effects (on digg, for example).

    If the wine industry was to trumpet the virtues of its collective wares, our view of them, before too long, might be no less contemptible than toward the snake-oil salesman of yesteryear.

    Maybe that’s why the regulations exist in the first place.

  • Adam Selene

    So, you think it’s government’s job to protect industry from itself?