California Wine Institute hits back at 'Big Wine' slurs

  • Friday 11 December 2009

The California Wine Institute has rubbished claims from an anti-alcohol group that it should be renamed the ‘Big Alcohol Institute’ and is a ‘tool’ of global drinks corporations.

Marin Institute said its new report, ‘The Myth of the Family Winery: Global Corporations Behind California Wine’, dispelled the image of ‘mom-and-pop’ wineries in the state.

In particular, the report highlights the presence of global drinks companies such as Diageo, Constellation, Brown-Forman and Foster’s, which it said ‘call the shots’.

‘The Wine Institute calls itself the “voice of California wine”, but it’s a tool of global beer and spirits corporations, who oppose public health policies such as charging for alcohol harm,’ said Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director of Marin Institute.

But the Wine Institute dismissed the claims, pointing out that the vast majority of its 900-plus members are small, family-owned businesses.

‘Wine Institute membership and dues are based solely on California winery ownership, and our Board is comprised of 98 winery principals and representatives, with no single company having more than two seats and votes on the Board,’ a spokesperson said.

Marin Institute alleges that the Wine Institute is working to deregulate alcohol nationwide in the US, a claim described as ‘absurd’ by the spokesperson.

‘Wine Institute and its members support the responsible consumption of wine in moderation, in keeping with the advice of the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans,’ she said.

The Marin Trust is a non-profit organisation largely funded by a private estate, the Buck Trust.

It issues regular anti-alcohol reports and is described by some in the drinks industry as a modern-day temperance group with neo-prohibitionist tendencies.

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