UK government sets out to revamp wine regulations

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

A vineyard in Maidstone, Kent. Pic: getty/asmithers
A vineyard in Maidstone, Kent. Pic: getty/asmithers

Related tags Uk Wine

The UK government will ‘scrap retained EU red tape on wine to unlock £180m’ via proposed changes to regulations for the production and marketing of wine in the country.

The government's Food and Drink Secretary claims the Brexit revamp to wine regulations, announced this week, will 'put a rocket' under the country's wine making businesses and provide the £180m / $222m boost for the sector.

The changes will 'allow wine makers the freedom to pick from a wider range of vines, including more disease resistant varieties, and overturn the restrictions which currently prevent the wine industry from producing new blends'.

Bottlers will also be able to turn imported wine into sparkling wine.

The new proposals will remove ‘expensive and cumbersome’ packaging requirements – such as ending the mandatory requirement that certain sparkling wines must have foil caps and mushroom stoppers.

Domestic wine makers will also be free to show a variety and vintage of any wine without having to go through previously EU-mandated applications processes.

A consultation is due to launch shortly on all the proposed changes.

The UK represents a very small wine producing market on the global stage; but it has been growing consistently in recent years and expects to become more prominent as climate change makes the country more favorable for vineyards.

Meanwhile, the UK represents one of the top three wine importers globally in volume terms.

Reforms promise greater flexibility

In the UK, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 took a ‘snapshot’ of EU law as it applied to the UK on December 31, 2020, and provided for it to continue to apply post-Brexit.

Now, however, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill allows large changes to be made to this body of retained law.

The proposed changes to wine regulations will affect both the UK's growing domestic wine industry and those importing into the country. 

Food and Drink Secretary Food and Drink Thérèse Coffey said: “The UK has over 800 thriving vineyards at home and hundreds of millions of pounds worth of wine trade going through UK ports every year.

“But for too long our producers have been held back by cumbersome inherited EU regulations. We will give them the freedom they need to thrive.

“These reforms will put a rocket under our wine makers’ businesses – growing the economy, creating jobs and supporting a vital part of our food and drink sector.”

The new proposals have been welcomed by the UK’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive, said: “By introducing greater flexibility, wine producers and importers won’t be forced to do anything differently but will be able to innovate.

“Allowing businesses bringing bulk wine into GB to be able to blend, will benefit importers, bottlers - and ultimately consumers while labelling changes will allow a common back label to be used in both EU and UK markets, maintaining the UK as an attractive market for all producers – large and small.”

The reforms, as proposed by the UK government on May 21, read as follows: 

  • Importer labelling – Remove a requirement that imported wines must show an importer rather than a Food Business Operator on the label. This will reduce costs and bureaucracy for consumers.
  • Hybrid grape varieties – Wine with Protected Designation of Origin permitted to use a wider choice of vine varieties that are more disease resistant. This will enable farmers to choose the variety that works best for them and reduce vine loss due to disease.
  • Piquette – Allow producers to make and market piquette from their wine production by-products. This will open up new income streams for wine producers.
  • Blending wine – Allow imported wine to be blended in market. This will boost our domestic industries by enabling the production of new product lines.
  • Foil caps and mushroom stoppers – Remove the mandatory requirement that certain sparkling wines must have these to be marketed in UK This will mean less cost for producers and more choice for consumers.
  • Wine Certification Scheme – Allow any wine to show a variety and vintage without having to apply for the right to do so. This will reduce bureaucracy and cost for producers and enable new products to reach our shelves more quickly.
  • Transformation of wine sector products – Allow imported wine sector to be carbonated, sweetened, de-alcoholised in market. This will enable our industry to create more product lines for the UK market/tastes and give consumers more choice.
  • Low and No alcohol wine – Permit the production and marketing of low and no alcohol wines. Given the growing popularity of low and no alcohol wine, this will mean more flexibility for domestic producers and greater choice for consumers.

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