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Loophole allows foreign wine in American blends

A loophole in regulations allowing American wines to be blended with out-of-state and foreign grapes is angering local producers in California.

Despite California’s record-breaking 2005 harvest, some wineries in the region are continuing to use imported wines to make ‘American wine’.

One industry insider said that the San Francisco-based Wine Group in the Central Valley, which sells Franzia wines, was one example of a winery that used imported wine in its blends.

They are taking advantage of federal regulations which allow up to 25% of out-of-state or foreign wine in ‘American’ appellation brands. A 1942 state law, however, requires California appellation wines to be made only from California grapes.

‘You would think there was enough California wine to use, but this is a recent phenomenon. You could say we are experiencing the more negative effects of globalisation firsthand,’ Karen Ross, president of the CAWG (California Association of Winegrape Growers) told decanter.com.

Bulk table wine imports through May 2006 totalled 2.6m equivalent cases, up 229% from a year ago, according to CAWG statistics.

Imports are on the rise not just because of competitive pricing, said Ross, but also because of the need to fill gaps in supply created by hot consumer demand for varietals like Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and Riesling.

CAWG is currently lobbying for a change in the federal regulations.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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