Last updated on 29 April 2013
A guide to wine law
Background to the wine regulations applicable in the UK, a brief guidance on the key aspects of the law and guidance on the other laws relating to the wine trade.
How European and UK wine laws are applied
European Council and Commission Wine Regulations cover:
- the whole market in wine from the grape to the final sale to the consumer
- the EC price support system
- the arrangements for importation into the Community from other (Third) countries
The Commission also issues directives and notices on general matters covering wine, including where appropriate lists of the responsible (competent) authorities designated by Member States for enforcement purposes. All European legislation may be found in the Eur-Lex section of the Commission website.
The Wine Regulations is a national Statutory Instrument (SI) reissued from time to time, and kept up to date by regular amending SIs issued to cover new or amended legislation.
Which Regulations apply in the UK
European Commission Regulations
- Rules in the wine sector must apply to all Member States in the European Union.
- Council and Commission Regulations for the wine sector are published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.
- Among areas covered are winemaking, documentation and record keeping, labelling and price lists. These rules also apply to wines imported into the European Union from non-EU countries (Third Countries).
UK (Wine) Regulations
National legislation has been enacted to allow the UK to enforce Community rules. The Statutory Instrument is The Wine Regulations 2011.
Enforcement responsibility is shared with Defra, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and local authorities, the latter being responsible for all enforcement in the retail sector.
Regulations in the Wine sector: some aspects of the law
From 1 August 2009, new regulations apply which include some alterations to wine making and labelling provisions.
Detailed information on the revised provisions will be added under the Related Links section.
Still, sparkling and liqueur wine
The regulations set out conditions for making wine, record keeping and labelling for each of these categories.
- de-acidification and enrichment of wine produced in the UK is subject to permitted limits and must be notified to the WSB. Minimum and/or maximum alcoholic strengths are laid down in each category, with special provision for wines from Third Countries.
- processing aids and agents are also identified with maximum limits e.g. total sulphur dioxide must not exceed 150 milligrams per litre in a red wine
2. Record keeping
- there is a list of operations including enrichment and bottling which must be recorded promptly. Accompanying documents and records must be kept for at least five years.
- specific mandatory items must be shown, in one field of vision. These include nominal volume (eg 75cl), alcoholic strength (eg 11.5% vol), bottler's details, country of origin, type of wine. In addition allergenic ingredients (see below) may need to be shown.
- specified optional items may also be shown on certain types of wine, eg vine variety, vintage. Further information may be shown, providing it does not conflict with mandatory or specified optional details and that there is no risk of confusion
- Labelling provisions are included in EU Regulations 479/2008 and 607/2009 (legally 479/2008 has now been replaced by 491/2009 amending the Single Market Regulation 1234/2007)
Aromatised wine products
This category includes 'wines with added flavouring', such as vermouth and Sangria.
Council Regulation 1601/91 includes definitions and product descriptions but detailed labelling provisions fall under UK Food Labelling Regulations.
See Related links below under Wine Labelling guidance
Additional national legislation
In addition to EC wine regulations and the CAP (Wine) Regulations, there is a wide range of national legislation which applies to the UK wine industry. The authorities primarily responsible for enforcement of national legislation are the Government departments concerned, HMRC and local authorities (particularly the trading standards and environmental health departments).
Some of the major items are shown below for general information:
- Trade Descriptions Act 1968
- Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
- Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979
- Weights and Measures Act 1985
- Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006
- Weights and Measures (Specified Quantities) 2009
- Food Safety Act 1990
- Trade Marks Act 1994
- Food Labelling Regulations 1996
- Food (Lot Marking) Regulations 1996
- Licencing Act 2003
Wine is largely exempt from Food Labelling Regulations, since the European Community has drawn up specific provisions in wine sector.
Legislation since 1998 may be accessed on legislation.gov.uk.
A more extensive list of principal and secondary legislation is given in the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) Checklists.