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EU wine reform plans consumer-friendly wines

Europe is proposing to simplify the labelling of its wines to make them easier for the consumer to understand. As part of the wine reform proposals adopted by the European Commission last week, all EU wines will be allowed to put the grape variety and vintage on the label.

Mariann Fischer Boel, the commissioner for agriculture and rural development, said, ‘Europe offers wines for all tastes and budgets – in fact, the choice is so vast that many consumers are unfamiliar with most and look for guidance on the label. But the current labelling rules do not allow all wines to indicate some basic and reliable information such as harvest year and type of grapes used – indications that consumers expect to find, and which are displayed on New World wines.’

And this is the crux of it – the proposals are designed to help European wines compete more effectively against their counterparts from the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Chile.

In fact, the new reform even goes as far as to allow grapes from more than one country to be blended together. This means you could, for example, get Grenache grapes from Spain being blended with ones from France for a wine sold with a label bearing the name of the grape and the year but not a country of origin. Again the hope is to make these lower-end wines easier to market, by branding them more like those from countries like Australia, where producers regularly blend fruit from several states.

Quality wines, however, aren’t left out of the equation. Even these are set for a marketing boost because studies have shown that consumers find the existing multitude of geographical indications for specific wine districts difficult to understand. So a dedicated budget is being set aside for campaigns explaining these to consumers not just in the EU but in the rest of the world.

Of course, all this assumes that the proposed wine reform is approved when it is presented to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in the autumn, but the European Commission expects it to come into force from August next year.