New reforms to the UK’s wine industry will drive change in production and packaging

New reforms to the UK’s wine industry will help the UK’s  wine industry innovate, adopt new practices and prosper, Food and Drink Minister Mark Spencer has announced following a public consultation.

In Wine: reforms to retained EU law, the government has set out reforms for the wine sector which will begin in 2024 and take advantage of exiting the EU.

According to Food and Drink Minister Mark Spencer, the reforms are made possible by powers under the Retained EU Law Act which are being used to remove constraints from the economy while ensuring high standards are not compromised.

Feedback from the wine industry has shown that certain regulations within the current 400-page rulebook have been stifling innovation and preventing the introduction of more efficient and sustainable practices.

Changes will include removing ‘expensive and cumbersome” packaging requirements – such as ending the mandatory requirement that certain sparkling wines must have foil caps and mushroom-shaped stoppers. This will reduce unnecessary waste and packaging costs for businesses, says the government.

In addition, “outdated” rules around bottle shapes will be scrapped, freeing up producers to use different shapes.

The government will also remove the requirement for imported wines to have an importer address on the label – the food business operator (FBO) responsible for ensuring all legal requirements are met will still need to be identified on the label, as is the standard requirement for food products. This will create more frictionless trade and reduce administrative burdens.

Further reforms will also give producers more freedom to use hybrid varieties of grapes.

The government sees this as an opportunity for growers to choose the variety that works best for them and reduce vine loss due to disease or climate change, while also providing greater choice to consumers.

There is also scope for producers to make and market piquette (a lower-alcohol drink produced by rinsing the by-products of wine production, including grape skins and stalks, with water and fermenting that rinse). This, adds the legislators, will open new income streams for wine producers and help to meet demand for lower-alcohol drinks.

In addressing the reforms, Food and Drink Minister Mark Spencer noted  the “diverse and dynamic” wine sector in the UK – but stressed how producers and traders have been “held back by red tape inherited from the EU”.

“The reforms we’ve announced today scrap outdated and burdensome rules so that our wineries, vineyards and traders can continue to innovate and help grow our economy,” Spencer added.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the UK’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association welcomed the long-called for measures and said removing the restrictive rules on importer labelling will significantly reduce the post-Brexit impact of having to have a unique UK label.

He said: “Moving to labelling food business operator should allow one common label for both UK and EU markets, which will maintain the UK as an attractive destination market and support our aim for UK consumers continue to have access to the widest possible choice of wine from around the world.”

Ned Awty, director and interim CEO of Wines of Great Britain said: “These reforms will modernise regulations and encourage investment in all areas of the wine sector, from the domestic wine trade to our thriving vineyards and wineries.”

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