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Wine News

Call for a level playing field on selling low-alcohol wines in the UK

Low-alcohol wines are still struggling to make it to shops in the UK because of the anomalies of EU regulations concerning how they are made and labelled.

To try and change the situation, MP Andrew Dismore called upon the Government in November to ask the European Commission to remove prohibitions against two of the technologies used to reduce alcohol, namely reverse osmosis and spinning cone. Both these technologies are widely used in other wine-making countries and, as Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), explained to ThirtyFifty, ‘We’re looking for a level playing field.’

Wines made in America using these processes are allowed to be sold in the UK as a result of a bilateral agreement between the US and the EU. The WSTA believes, therefore, that it is only fair that similarly made wines within the EU should be available to the consumer too. Jeremy said, ‘Our research shows the consumer wants a wider choice of lower-alcohol wines, companies want to make them and retailers want to stock them. And there’s no public health risk to them.’

Already this year the current EU rules have stopped Sovio, a semi-sparkling wine made in Spain by spinning cone, making its way into stores. And more recently Australian company Brown Brothers has been prevented from selling a 6.5% Moscato d’Asti-style wine. In spite of the fact that Brown Brothers’ sparkler achieves its level of alcohol naturally, it has fallen foul of the Food Standards Agency’s rules by having the label descriptor wine. Under current EU regulations, wines under 8.5% can’t be classed as such.

With the Government’s current push to cut binge-drinking and encourage us all to drink more responsibly, it seems a logical step to remove barriers to giving consumers a greater choice of lower-alcohol products.