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Wine News

Lower-alcohol wines in EU anomaly

At the same time that the Government is encouraging us to drink responsibly, a range of reduced-alcohol wines has been prevented from going on sale in the UK. Domaine La Colombette’s Plume wines have had their alcohol lowered by reverse osmosis. This has caused a problem with the Wine Standards branch of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which is responsible for enforcing the EU wine regime in the UK.

Technologies, such as reverse osmosis, aren’t presently allowed in Europe.
France is an exception as this process can be used on an experimental basis there. However, these wines can only be sold within France, says the FSA. Yet, Plume is being sold in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Furthermore, US wines using reverse osmosis can legally be sold in Europe and it seems likely there are other wines being sold in the UK that have gone through this process, but just haven’t flagged the fact.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, which has just released research showing that lower-alcohol wines are becoming more fashionable, thinks that the FSA’s interpretation of the law is correct, but that it’s not in the consumer’s best interest. Chief Executive Jeremy Beadles told ThirtyFifty, ‘The Department of Health is encouraging lower alcohol and processes such as reverse osmosis are approved by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and are used for wines that aren’t reduced alcohol. At the moment it’s not a level playing field. We want the EU Commission to agree that OIV standards should be accepted.’

Meanwhile, D & D International, the UK distributor for the Plume wines, has retailers lining up to sell the range, Tesco for one, so the company hopes that it can get the issue resolved. Marketing manager Gabriel Wirth said, ‘It’s nice to be on the same page as the Government and responsible drinking, so we need to plead that initiatives like this shouldn’t get bogged down in detailed criteria.’ After all, he explained, ‘It’s a wine done in the normal way and it’s good enough to carry the Vins de Pays appellation.’