French winemakers in the dark over ‘ingredients’ labels

The Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux say ‘There are many questions which are still to be answered’

Ahead of the December deadline, there still seems to be some grey areas concerning what ingredients must be listed on French wine bottles
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Wine labels will soon have to list all ingredients and give nutritional information, either on the label or through a computer QR code.

The move has been imposed by the European Union, which set a deadline of this December after years of winemakers arguing that wine should remain exempt from the rules and regulations that apply to other food and drinks.

Their case was weakened when brewers, who had also argued the rules were impractical, caved in – leading to lists of strange ingredients appearing on beer bottles.

Some popular lagers, which were traditionally made from barley malt, water, hops and yeast, are now seen to include maize, glucose syrup, citric acid and various perfumes.

Sara Briot-Lesage, of the Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux, said: “The deadline is coming and, as a profession, we are getting ready to implement it.

Details need to be ‘sorted out’

“However, there are lots of details still to be sorted out.

“As winemakers, it seems logical that the rules apply from December 8, which means the wine for 2023 will already be made, so the rules will apply from the 2024 vintage.

“However, it is not yet clear whether this is the case and it is an example of the sort of things we need to have clarified.”

Ms Briot-Lesage added that it was not clear either exactly how many ingredients will have to be listed on the bottles.

“Obviously, all wine comes from grape juice, but if it is fermented with natural yeasts, must you have them on the label or must you only mention a cultured yeast?” she said.

“And if it is an old cultured yeast, will it have the same declaration as a new cultured yeast?” It is also not evident at what level an additive must be declared.

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“When you look at a packet of shop biscuits, you see a long list of E numbers, which do not make much sense. It seems silly to go down that same route.”

Ms Briot-Lesage gave the example of sulphites, which appear naturally in wine.

Will they have to be declared, or only added ones, she asked.

French wine labels strictly regulated

Wine labels in France are already strictly regulated, and it is likely that the front label of bottles will remain the same, with the new information listed on a different label on the back.

Ms Briot-Lesage said efforts were also under way to introduce a system of QR codes rather than having a physical label.

“If there are shared platforms for the QR code, run by the wine trade bodies, it might reduce the cost these extra rules will incur,” she said.

The issue of whether quality wines, which have been kept in wineries for years before being bottled and sold, will be required to list ingredients is another grey area.

“There are many questions which are still to be answered,” Ms Briot-Lesage said.

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