In a consumer-facing industry, the customer is king. They are never wrong and what they say goes. This statement has never been more true than it is now. The 2019 consumer brand landscape is one riddled with social issue time bombs, slowly ticking down to time, often with explosive results to brand reputation and perception. Enter stage left: dietary consciousness and restrictions.

Sunset in the vineyards in Heladsburg, California

Over the past few years, the rise in consumer awareness of what they put in their bodies has risen at a rapid exponential rate. You can walk into any coffee shop in any major city in the United States and have your pick of milks, from nut to pea to oat. You can track your ethically sourced, free-range, grass fed meats and sprouted, non-GMO, whole grain breads all the way down the supply chain to their source. I’m shocked when a visit to a restaurant isn’t accompanied with one of my fellow diners asking “Do you have a gluten-free menu?” or “Is there dairy in this?” The level of consumer consciousness into what people now consume has knelt the deathblow to some industry kings, and led to the rise of new fair-trade dairy-free royalty.

Sheep graze in California vineyard

While these new trends have drastically changed the landscape of many food and beverage industries, rendering them nearly unrecognizable, the wine industry has remained relatively unscathed. Until now. In our tasting rooms and on social media, we have noticed an uptick in questions such as, “Is this wine vegan?” or “Are these grapes sustainably farmed?” We have meetings and team discussions about whether or not to add these specifications to our website and bottles. This is not something that we envision is going to go away. The wine industry will have to become proactive instead of reactive to these issues.

Sunrise over the vines

As a medium-sized wine house who grows all of our grapes, with the exception of Stella Rosa, at Riboli Family Wine owned vineyards, we have the luxury of knowing exactly where they come from, how they’re grown, and how they’re bottled. Having control of the process from start to finish means that we also know exactly what is in the wines, so we are well-equipped to inform our consumers. We at Riboli Family Wines believe that it is important to maintain transparency in the dialogue between us and the people who consume our wines. In order to stay relevant and fresh, it is important to stay ahead of the curve and face these questions head on. We are in talks to add the terms “gluten free” and/or “vegan” to the applicable labels. We also just built a new wine facility in Paso Robles that is totally green, and our vineyard there runs on a sustainable ideology. These are the kinds of details that consumers are going to want to know and that the wine industry needs to be prepared to answer.