Makeover For Wine Labels?

The people who make wine say it's time for Americans to sample the whole picture. CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports.

While winemakers admit drinking too much wine can be bad for your health, they also believe a little wine may be good for you. They want new labels on the bottles to say just that.

"All we're saying is we want a balanced approach. There may be some very good benefits to the consumption of wine," says Dan Damianos of the Pindar Vineyards.

As both a doctor and a vintner, Dan Damianos stands by studies that show wine may fight heart disease by lowering cholesterol. He's one of many who want to advertise the potential benefits alongside the well-known warnings.

"Wine is a food and is meant to go with food; it's not a spirit," says Damianos.

The
new label under consideration by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would say either: "to learn the health effects of moderate wine consumption send for... government dietary guidelines" or "...consult your family doctor about the health effects of wine consumption."

"We're not pushing for a blanket endorsement of drinking. On the other hand, we oppose a blanket indictment saying any drinking even in moderation could cause problems," says John De Luca, president of The Wine Institute.

A label suggesting you ask your doctor about the health effects of wine may seem innocuous enough but we are talking about alcohol and even the suggestion that it's good for you has uncorked a bitter battle.

Leading the charge is Senator Strom Thurmond, father of the original warning labels, who has vowed to do everything in his power to block the new labels. The American Heart Association is also worried that current warnings will be undermined.

"There still is a clear area of concern here that we don't know yet how people respond to alcohol in terms of overall health effect," says Dr. Ronald Kraus of the American Heart Association.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms is expected to make its decision in early February. If the labels are approved for winemakers, 1999 will be a very good year.

Reported by Elizabeth Kaledin
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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