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Sovio sources from US to get round EU anomaly

Sovio, the low-alcohol wine that was outlawed last year in the UK for being made using the spinning cone, has relaunched by sourcing the grapes from California rather than Spain.

As a result of an EU anomaly, in 2007 distribution of Sovio was paralysed because a movement control notice was put on it by the Wine Standards Board. The notice said that Sovio’s products didn’t comply with EU regulations because they were allegedly made by ‘unauthorised winemaking practices’ – in this case, the spinning cone column, which is a machine for reducing alcohol. Confusingly, if wines are made in the US using this method, they can be sold in Europe and both France and Spain can also make wine using this technology for the domestic market.

So, to remove Sovio from what chairman Tony Dann describes as ‘the perversity and idiocy of EU wine regulations’, grapes for the bottles are now coming from California. This means that the company has had to use different grape varieties, but Tony told ThirtyFifty that, ‘The objective in blending is to produce a certain style and we can replicate that in more than one country. Above all, we wanted a crisp, fruity and refreshing style and, in the case of the rosé, lots of berry flavour.’

As far as the company is concerned, however, issues still remain unresolved as to how the bottles are labelled, with The Wine Standards Branch wanting the words ‘reduced-alcohol, wine-based drink’, which Tony says, ‘is a lie because it’s 100% wine’. A judicial review of last year’s actions to stop the sale of the bottles has been granted and Tony says the company will continue to fight over the wording on the labels.

Whatever the outcome, consumers can now by this low-alcohol, lightly sparkling wine. Nick Room, wine buyer at Waitrose, which is now stocking it, said, ‘Although it contains only 8% alcohol, our tasting panel agreed Sovio’s taste, flavour and body are fully comparable to conventional wines. We’re very much aware of consumer interest in lighter-style, less-alcoholic wines, ‘ and he said, ‘We chose to start with Sovio because we thought it’s the best of the various new wines in this new lighter-style category.’