Reading bottle labels for wines that are made with organic grapes just became clearer -- or not. The labeling requirements for wines that contain a mixture of organic and non-organic grapes are being changed.

Wine Industry Insight reports that a Memorandum of Understanding has been drawn up between the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB will implement the new organic grape labeling policy on behalf of the AMS/USDA.

Wines that are labeled "Made with Organic Ingredients" will now have to indicate if there are non-organic ingredients in the wine, too. It can be done with a variation on one of the following statements:

  • “Made with Organic and Non-Organic Grapes”;
  • “Made with Organic [variety] Grapes and Non-Organic [variety] Grapes”;
  • “Made with _% Organic Grapes and _% Grapes”;
  • “Made with _% Organic [variety] Grapes and _% Non-Organic [variety] Grapes”
It looks like a separate percentage statement must also be on the bottle, indicating the amount of organic ingredients that are organic in the bottle. The Percentage Statement must appear on the information panel in proximity to the Organic Ingredients Statement, according to the new rules. 

Now here's where it can get confusing. Just because a bottle of wine contains 100 percent organic grapes, it does mean that it meets the USDA’s standard to be certified organic. If the wine contains added sulfites, it cannot be certified organic. If the winery has not gone through the USDA certification process, it cannot be certified organic.

So, in order to avoid confusion, if a wine is made with 100 percent organic ingredients, it cannot be labeled "100% organic ingredients." The concern is that consumers might think it’s certified. Instead, the wine may label itself with something like “Ingredients: Organic Grapes.” This is supposed to let consumers know that there are no non-organic grapes in the wine.

The new labeling practices went into effect on June 2, 2009. 

Photo: falcon1961

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Labels on organic wines changing
They're meant to ease confusion, but to those who don't understand the difference between 'made with organic ingredients' and 'certified organic,' wine labels c