Why Transparency in Wine Matters (…and shouldn’t it for anything we consume?)

By Dave Schavone

When I was a kid, lying was just about the greatest offense in my household. No matter what me or my brothers did wrong, lying about it automatically upgraded it to a felony charge. This included lies of omission. Knowing something relevant and choosing to keep it hidden has always been a no-no, like the time we thought we could coverup a fire in the kitchen sink.

In setting out to build RedThumb, we knew we needed to draft a set of principles to guide our decisions. Neither Diego or I has ever run a company before, and as we started to approach forks in the proverbial road, one after another, we realized having identified and discussed our beliefs has proven to be invaluable in cutting through all the noise. I mean, the conversation that started it all happened in Vegas so you could say cutting through the noise was kinda our thing.

The easiest to come up with were our product standards- organic practices, vegan friendly, dry farmed, minimal additives, etc. These are fundamental to our views on how wine should be made, both for the planet and for the consumer. In fact, these beliefs on wine were the motivation for starting this company, to make delicious wine with a conscience but still available to everyone. These came easy to us. The challenge came in communicating those standards to our future customers, which is cutting through a different kind of competitive noise as “natural wine” means many different things depending on who you talk to.

After some back and forth, we decided the only way to make sure our intent was clear was to simply state everything right on the bottle. Ingredients, nutritional facts, sulfur content, standards–all printed plainly for anyone to see. Our label designer (Finchform) did an incredible job and, just like that, transparency became the one core value that would govern everything else we did.

As we’ve navigated building a company (as opposed to simply sourcing great wine), we’ve seen how that same transparency will be paramount to everything we do. How green can we be? How much do we know about the labor practices of every one of our producers and partners? How will we ensure we build a company that lives up to our own expectations of equality and diversity? While we set out to eventually craft policies to address all of these questions, we will make them available to anyone who wants to know more about who we are. You’ll be able to see our successes and our failures. This is the only way for organizations to truly be held accountable and consistently strive to be better.

We’ve seen far too often how horrible behavior can be overlooked in the name of success, from the worst sexual misconduct to horrific labor practices. (You don’t have to look far… the Court of Master Sommeliers is making headlines almost daily in 2020.) It’s very easy for us to say we’re against these things, to offer words of support to victims and build our own strongly worded code of ethics. None of these things matter without oversight and accountability. 

When these scandals break, we’re often told that bad behavior has “seen the light of day.” Maybe if everything is always done in the light of day, that bad behavior won’t happen in the first place. Maybe if we all strive for transparency in our professional lives we can then live out the lofty goals we set for ourselves and each other.