By December 2023 all wine producers selling in the European Union will be legally required to provide allergy, energy, ingredient and nutritional information to consumers on their labels. The EU wine industry, unlike processed food generally, has not been previously required to list ingredients other than allergens on wine labels.
Specific labelling rules applicable to wine and aromatised wine products were adopted by Regulation 2021/2117 Publications Office (europa.eu) in the framework of the reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The legislation includes a critical distinction between what information must appear, in full text, on wine labels and what information can be provided through “electronic means” ie an e label via a QR code. Whilst intolerance, allergy, and energy information must be printed directly on the label; ingredient and nutrition lists can be provided electronically via QR code or a link, leading to an independently hosted e-label. Therefore, the content of physical labels placed on the wine bottle can be limited to a nutrition declaration of the energy value by using the symbol “E.”
The QR code or link to the ‘e-label’ cannot lead the consumer to a wine manufacturer’s website. Brand websites and apps contain information and content intended for sales and marketing purposes. User data is also almost always collected and tracked through interactions with company websites and apps. The common use of Google Analytics alone would constitute non-compliance with the E.U. requirements. Therefore, electronic labels will require a ‘clean’ platform with no sales or marketing content and no function for user tracking.
- Listing of ingredients causing allergies and intolerances must be on the “physical” label;
- “Electronic” labels cannot contain any other information intended for sales or marketing purposes; and
- No user data can be collected or tracked through electronic means.
These requirements apply to all products placed on the EU market whether they are produced in the EU or imported from a third country, including wines produced in the European Union and exported outside of the European Union. Wine produced and labelled before 8 December 2023 may continue to be placed in the EU market until stocks are exhausted.
Detailed requirements for how to present the information is specified throughout the body of the related regulations, which include regulation 1169/2011 and regulation 1308/2013.
Regulation 2021/2117 also lays down the conditions under which certain ‘grapevine products’ may be de-alcoholised or partially de-alcoholised and to establish the processes for de-alcoholisation that are authorised. This is the first time that such products may be marketed as ‘wines’.
Certain protections and distinctions will be applied depending on the level of dealcoholisation and the country of origin/protected designation.
Total de-alcoholisation (alcoholic strength less than 0.5%) has been authorized for table wines. However, addition of water and other elements not obtained directly from the de-alcoholisation process is not permitted. The term “de-alcoholised” must be included, and can be provided digitally.
The term “partially de-alcoholised” can be used if the alcohol by volume is more than 0.5% but below the minimum actual alcoholic strength of the category before de-alcoholisation. For any wines with strength by volume of less than 10 %, the date of minimum durability is necessary to be included and can also be provided “through electronic means”.
Other Alcohol – Beer & Spirits
Beer and spirits are not covered by this updated regulation. However, it is expected that all drinks producers will look to follow the requirements of the ‘e-label’ in anticipation of this being included in the future.
Future Developments of Labelling
Clearly there are advantages to the e-label it will mean that developments and changes of ingredients can happen instantly without waste. Additional information can be provided in different languages without restricting space on the label. Disadvantages would be if there was any vulnerability to cyber attack or outages; also that these are reliant on a certain amount of action by the consumer and their access to electronic means. The key element is that food safety issues concerning allergies and intolerances must still be printed on the physical label.
It is likely that additional voluntary information may in time be provided via e-labels and this may then be extended to become mandatory requirements; for example an association with a central product information database, traceability information, environmental requirements
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