Although the dust has hardly settled from the prolonged struggle to revise wine label regulations, the federal government is back again with another proposal for winemakers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has proposed ingredient labeling for wine, distilled spirits and beer. If adopted, the regulations would be enforced after Jan. 1, 1983.
When BATF withdrew an ingredient labeling proposal in 1976, the Food and Drug Administration stepped in and issued an edict of its own. That was overturned in Federal District Court. This time, FDA and BATF are acting in concert, calling their proposal "partial" instead of "full" ingredient labeling.
According to the Bureau, a division of the Treasury Department, labels would have to list "all essential components of the beverage including water, all additives remaining in the finished product, and all colors, flavors and preservatives in the beverage."
Consumer activists on Capitol Hill call the measure "three-quarters of a loaf," but indicated in initial reactions they are likely to back the proposal. Others may oppose it as not going far enough, however. Meanwhile, government sources expect the support of the beer industry. Initial reaction from the Wine Institute, which speaks for the powerful California segment of the industry, was guarded but hinted at opposition to come.
Wine Institute President John DeLuca said that "... a substantial gulf may still exist in the federal bureaucracy's understanding of the fundamentals of winemaking.... Under the government's approach this well-defined and well-understood practice (wine-making) would be complicated with no apparent benefit to anyone."
There is a 60-day period, until April 30, in which comments on the proposal are invited. Almost certainly, there will be more discussion and perhaps public hearings after that date.
The Washington Wine and Cheese Seminar passed a notable milestone last week. The local group, which prides itself on having no affiliation with industry, celebrated its 10th anniversary. Weekly sessions have been held on Tuesday nights during that period with time out only for summer holidays.
For some years, the group met on the Georgetown University campus. Now the rendezvous point is St. Patrick's Episcopal Church at Foxhall and Reservoir Roads. The initial organizer was Fred Weck, remembered for his tenure at the Georgetown Wine and Cheese Shop. Others who gave leadership during the early days were Paul Fox and Howard Solganik, both still active in local wine circles.
The Seminar is now directed by a steering committee of seven persons and attracts a weekly attendence of 60 to 80. There is no membership fee. Those who attend merely pay $4 at the door each week. Programs, which often feature a guest lecturer, are not announced in advance.
A new wine group, the Capitol Hill Chapter of Les Amis du Vin, is sponsoring a tasting next Wednesday, Feb. 21, to which the public is invited. The guest speaker is Rodney Strong, president and winemaker of Sonoma Vineyards in California. Strong will present a range of wines from his vineyard, including recent vintage chardonnay, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.
The tasting begins at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Hill Quality Inn. The fee is $5 per person. Cheese and bread will be served. For reservations and further information, call Jeffrey Cohen at 546-4600.
There's a superb new champagne in town with a fascinating history. The name is Salon, after the founder of the firm, Eugene-Aime Salon. A furrier who dabbled in politics, Salon's champage, a blanc de blanc made exclusively from grapes harvested in and around the village of Le Mesnil, is made only from the first pressing of the grapes and only released in vintage years. There have been only 16 vintages since 1928.
The one available here for the first time -- in very limited quantities -- is the 1971. It is on sale at the Georgetown Wine & Food Company, Calvert, Mac- Arthur, Woodley Liquors, Chevy Chase Liquors, the Old World Market, Spring Valley Wine and Liquor and Silesia Liquors in Oxon Hill at $30 to $35 a bottle. Tasting of the champagne against Dom Perignon, Roederer Cristal and William Duetz of the same vintage indicate the price is warranted.
Several leading English wine writers and merchants have formed the Zinfandel Club, an "association of lovers of California wines." Harry Waugh is the president. John Avery, Hugh Johnson and Paul Henderson are founding members. The group's objective is to arrange tastings of California wines and "to provide a forum for their discussion and evaluation."