Relaxed government rules will end ban on blending imported wine

20 October 2023 by
Relaxed government rules will end ban on blending imported wine

UK wine producers will be allowed to blend imported wines and face fewer rules around the shape and packaging of bottles under new post-Brexit reforms set out by the government.

Food and Drink minister Mark Spencer announced the changes this week following a public consultation, with the relaxed regulations set to be formally introduced in 2024.

These include scrapping the mandatory requirement that certain sparkling wines must have foil caps and mushroom-shaped stoppers, as well as removing rules on bottle shapes.

Imported wines will no longer require an importer address on the label, though the Food Business Operator (FBO) will still need to be identified.

Meanwhile, producers will be permitted to use hybrid varieties of grapes to "reduce vine loss due to disease or climate change", according to the government.

A ban on blending imported wines will end and producers will be allowed to make and market piquette, a lower-alcohol drink made by rinsing and fermenting the by-products of wine production. Selling piquette was illegal under European Union (EU) rules to limit the volume of wine on the market.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the UK's Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), said: "We welcome the measures announced by the Government today, many of which the WSTA has been calling for a number of years.

"Removing the restrictive rules on importer labelling will significantly reduce the post-Brexit impact of having to have a unique UK label.

"Moving to labelling Food Business Operator should allow one common label for both UK and EU markets, which will maintain the UK as an attractive destination market and support our aim for UK consumers continue to have access to the widest possible choice of wine from around the world."

Wines of Great Britain, the association for the English and Welsh wine industry, said: "Sustainability and innovation are at the heart of our domestic wine industry, WineGB welcomes any measures that supports these values.

"We also look forward to any future legislation changes that will help Britain's fastest growing agricultural sector thrive."

However, some industry figures have voiced concerns around ending the ban on blending imported wines and allowing producers to make piquette.

Wine writer Jamie Goode warned in online journal Wineanorak that the move could encourage existing UK winemakers to buy the cheapest bulk wines, before blending and selling them on at low prices.

He tweeted: "Anyone who supported this is complicit in what will follow."

James Allcock, owner of the Pig & Whistle bistro in Yorkshire, tweeted: "This could be disastrous for English wine and maybe even worse for the market in general. Totally baffled why anyone would think these changes listed are good ones for the UK."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the UK wine market was worth over £10b in off-trade and on-trade sales in 2022.

TagsDefra and Wine
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