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The Challenge of Wine Labeling in Mexico and the World

By Paz Austin - Mexican Vitiviniculture Council
Managing Director


By Paz Austin | Director General - Mon, 02/21/2022 - 13:00

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At the moment of selecting a wine, we generally look for certain characteristics that are attractive to our senses. These are the type of grape, the sweetness, the aroma, the color, the acidity and the body, as well as others that, together, grant a personality to the wine and allow us to remember it once we taste it. However, a key element in the selection of our wines and, in general, all alcohol drinks is their label.

In Mexico and the world, labels on alcoholic beverages are an artistic representation of the personality that is imprinted into a drink; it is part of a cyclical concept that looks to offer the consumer a unique product that includes a cultural and transcendental experience. With wine, frontal labels tell a story of tradition and a unique language that has been constructed for centuries. It speaks of the field, it indicates the vintages, it includes the regions and the development methods.

From an artistic perspective, wine labels are incomparable. No two labels in one category are equal, and each drink looks to offer a differentiating and distinctive element that the (of-age) consumer can recognize and enjoy with measure. In the market, we can find labels that are worthy of art competitions. In Mexico, we can even number countless labels that stand out for sharing Mexican traditions and culture with the world.

From a normative perspective, the label is a physical element that allows the consumer to get to know the brand and denomination of an alcoholic beverage and the amount of alcohol per volume contained in the package. In Mexico, the NOM-142-SSA1/SE establishes the commercial as well as obligatory and optional sanitary criteria that a label must contain. The objective is for the consumer to have information about the product, its origin and commercialization on top of sanitary aspects that look to contribute to the prevention of detrimental use of alcohol.

Even though international regulations that promote minimum criteria for labels of alcoholic beverages exist, it is important to mention that Mexican regulation is extremely complete and, from a comparative point of view, one of the strictest in the world. There are two great considerations at a global level in the matter of labeling alcoholic beverages: i) validating basic criteria relative to sanitary labeling, such as precautionary symbols; and ii) offering better ways of informing the consumer about the beverage’s attributes and how to prevent the detrimental use of alcohol that doesn’t saturate the physical label, which has a limited space.

The sanitary aspect of alcoholic beverage labeling has been a controversial topic and has been studied in detail in diverse parts of the world by academics, researchers, industries and international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). In multiple documents and analyses, it has been concluded that it is better to have a sanitary label than not as scientific evidence shows that precautionary symbols on labels, in reality, have an impact on reducing indexes of explosive consumption, or other detrimental uses. Studies also suggest that an alcohol consumer chooses a product principally based on the style of life they live and, in many cases, on the price of the product. According to the WHO, Mexico is among the countries that mandates three of the four precautionary symbols in its regulation, with the objective of preventing detrimental use of alcohol: avoiding consumption by minors, avoiding consumption by pregnant women and combining drinking and driving.

That is why, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, new opportunities have opened to inform consumers (principally the highest-risk groups) with better elements and communication methods that can be measured, in terms of public policies, and that are effective in sending adequate messages about brands and categories of alcoholic beverages chosen for consumption.

The International Wine Organization (OIV) has been working proactively and innovatively to improve the communication with the consumer in all aspects, principally to offer interesting and valuable information about the wine they decide to put on their table. For example, a QR code that works as an electronic label communicates sanitary information, gives the product traceability, proves that the product is legal and complies with the normativity and generates authenticity certificates and additional information about the origin of the beverage. Additionally, it proposes a method that facilitates the updating of information and avoids a waste of labels for reprinting. The electronic label also offers an unlimited space to improve the information for the consumer in an effective, affordable and viable way. The electronic label is also a modern medium that new consumers of age understand and see as more attractive and familiar. It is an effective medium for communication.

In Mexico, we have a golden opportunity to evaluate the possibility of transiting two-dimensional and three-dimensional public policies that imply the use of new technologies and more adequate and punctual communication for consumers and key groups with whom the prevention of detrimental alcohol use can be strengthened. Wine products in Mexico are profiled for adopting innovative methods of commercial information and transparency for the consumer while the wine tradition of labeling at a global level is respected.

Photo by:   Paz Austin

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