TTB Administrator Questioned in Hearing over Truth in Wine Labeling Rules


5/21/2008 - Napa Valley, CA-On Tuesday, May 20, 2008 the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) Administrator John Manfreda testified before the U.S. House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight in Washington, DC. Committee member Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) robustly challenged Mr Manfreda on his department's handling of wine industry rule making that seeks to mislead consumers with mis-descriptive wine labeling practices.

The topic at hand stems from TTB's proposed rulemaking in notices 77 and 78 which have become known as the "Calistoga Controversy," but which have far-reaching ramifications to all wine producing regions in the U.S and to all consumers of American wine. The Treasury Department is seeking to cover up past mistakes with new regulations and disregard rules of law that have been in place for decades, which all producers are currently abiding by and which are in the best interest of consumers.

The rules proposed provide for a single brand known as Calistoga Cellars to sell wine using this brand name when grapes to make the wine are not from this renowned Napa Valley area. Hundreds of wineries, more than fifty-five members of Congress including Thompson and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have urged TTB and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen to abandon these misguided proposals. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is also supporting the coalition that includes most every wine trade association including the Wine Institute. The proposed rules are also in opposition to U.S. international trade treaties. Mr. Manfreda is asking the industry to come to consensus, and it overwhelmingly has, yet the Administrator seems to stand strong in his position that compromises consumers' rights to truthful wine labels.

"Because John Manfreda, head administrator of the TTB, said their official manual that guides the establishment of an AVA is something they don't follow, then it's clear that Senator Feinstein and I need to look at all avenues to fix the problem, including legislation," said Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA).

About the NVV
Now in our seventh decade, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association is the sole organization responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley Appellation as a winegrowing region second to none in the world. Respect for our history reinforces our commitment to the preservation and enhancement of the Valley's land, wine, and community for future generations. We address the shared interests of our more than 300 member wineries and aspire to be the essential organization for all Napa Valley vintners.

Terry Hall
Communications Director
Napa Valley Vintners
Direct 707.968.4217

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Contact: Terry Hall, Communications Director 707-968-4217