Our Take

Wine Scaremongers Slapped Down — For Now

Bryan Dent
Written by Bryan Dent

Remember the arsenic-in-wine lawsuit that generated so many headlines last March? The whole thing was a load of horseshit, as reported here at The Brutal Hammer and elsewhere: a transparent attempt to scare the public and enrich a pack of lawyers and other schemers. Finally, almost exactly a year later, a California judge has tossed the bogus suit.

The would-be safety monitors claimed that 83 different California wines contained dangerously high levels of arsenic, fingering some of the most popular (and most profitable) labels — Franzia, Beringer, Sutter Home, to name just a few. But the whole thing stank from the start. BeverageGrades, the outfit that conducted the tests and uncovered these “dangerous” levels of arsenic, immediately began peddling its services to provide “retailers reassurance from arsenic in wine” — the classic ploy of conjuring up a supposed problem, then selling the solution.

BeverageGrades refused to disclose its methodology to reporters, and its results disagreed with independent tests conducted by CBS News. It also turned out that the European Union and Canada, both of which test for arsenic in imported foodstuffs, had no issue with allowing these “tainted” wines within their borders.

Scary stories about “poison” wine lingered in the news for a few weeks, but consumers saw through the scam. There were no marches or petitions; no retailer was ever pressured to pull the wines from its shelves. If anything, sales of California wine have gone up in the past year, domestically and abroad.

Justice was served when the judge in the case ruled Wednesday that the wineries already provided enough information about arsenic levels in their wines. But the judge didn’t rule out the possibility of an appeal, and that’s exactly what the plaintiffs are now plotting:

“These defendants never once denied that their wines had extremely high levels of inorganic arsenic, so we plan to continue fighting to protect consumers and ensure that they get accurate information about the wine they’re consuming,” said co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs Michael Burg in a statement.

I guess it would be asking too much for these people to just go away. But for now, at least, this is a win worth celebrating with a bottle or two of good California wine.




About the author

Bryan Dent

Bryan Dent

Leave a Comment