The US Department of Treasury's Alcohol, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the listing of resveratrol on Willamette Valley Vineyards' '02 Vintage Selection Pinot noir label and '03 Whole Cluster Fermented Pinot noir labels.
It also approved wording on the latter vintage's label explaining the role of resveratrol in the winemaking process: "Pinot noir develops a natural defense against botrytis (mold) in our moist, cool climate - the antioxidant resveratrol."
Confusingly, however, it has rejected the vineyard's request to use the same wording on its '04 Whole Cluster Pinot noir label, stating "you may not make curative or therapeutic claims on labels or create misleading associations between the consumption of alcohol and health". It called for the word 'resveratrol' to be deleted.
A TTB spokesperson was not available to explain the apparent contradiction to NutraIngredients-USA.com prior to publication.
Jim Bernau, founder and president of Willamette Valley Vineyards, is continuing with plans for the '02 and '03 vintages to carry the new labels nonetheless. His legal counsel has advised that each approval or rejection is independent from the others and therefore remains valid unless rescinded by the agency.
"We have been careful to avoid making any health claims on the label and related materials associated with resveratrol and rather have focused on its presence and the reason for its presence in our wine," said Bernau, who plans to appeal against the '04 Pinot noir label rejection on the grounds that stating the origin of resveratrol and its content is within the law.
Last year scientists at the University of Virginia concluded that resveratrol is the compound primarily responsible for the health benefits of red wine and claimed to have discovered its function in the prevention of cancer - starving cancer cells by inhibiting the action of nuclear factor- kappa B (NF-kB) protein that feeds them.
Resveratrol is also found in raspberries, mulberries and peanuts. In grapes it occurs in the greatest quantities in the Pinot noir variety, when grown in moist, cool climates such as New York and Oregon's Willamette Valley.
Wine with more than 10 micromolar (molecules by liter) of resveratrol is considered out of the ordinary. However according to Bernau tests on wines made from Willamette's Estate Vineyard have shown between 19 and 71 micromolar of resveratrol.
"It is my hope that continued recognition by the public and public policy makers toward the unique attributes of wine will support legal changes which at a minimum allow wine producers to voluntarily list antioxidants on the label," Bernau said.