Major Defra Consultation on GB Wine Sector

Defra is consulting on the UK wine industry.  Wine Reforms Consultation 2023.pdf (

The new legal framework will bring environmental benefits by encouraging more bulk movements of wine to GB for bottling. It will support our glass recycling targets and help producers to squeeze every drop of value from their harvests.

The consultation will be open for 9 weeks from 23 May 2023. Responses should be received by 21 July 2023

As well as consolidating all retained EU law on wine, and domestic legislation into one comprehensive piece of legislation the consultation proposes the following measures:

Importer Labelling

The government is proposing to amend retained EU law to remove the requirement that imported wine needs to show the prefix 'importer' or 'imported by' before the address of the business responsible for importing that wine to Great Britain.

Hybrid grape varieties

The government intends to amend retained EU law (Regulation 1308/2013 Article 93) to remove a restriction that requires a wine with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) to be made only from grapes of the species Vitis vinifera. All other wine, including wine with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), can be made either from grapes of the species Vitis vinifera, other species of Vitis or crosses of species (hybrids).

It is stated that Restricting how some wines can be made is not consistent with the quality arrangements which bases quality on provenance rather than the type of raw materials used in their production.  The EU has itself removed this restriction.


The government is proposing to amend retained EU law to remove the ban on the commercial production and sale of Piquette. Piquette is a lower-alcohol drink produced by rinsing pomace (the residue that originates from winemaking and consists of the stems, skins, and seeds of the grape berry) with water and fermenting that rinse. Piquette cannot currently be marketed as a wine product.

Blending wines

The government intends to amend retained EU law (Regulation 1308/2018, Annex 8) to remove a ban that prevents wine imported into GB to be blended with another wine. The blending (coupage) of wine is both a historical practice and commonplace globally, offering scope for new blends of wine that appeal to consumers.

Under retained EU law, the blending of imported wine is banned. However, the EU continues to permit the blending of EU wines of different EU origins, but takes the view that wines produced elsewhere should not be blended with its wine, nor does it permit non-EU wines to be blended in the EU.

The proposal to remove this ban will allow the blending (coupage) of any wine in GB. This will allow for improvements to be made to wine through a blending process. It could allow bottlers scope to achieve greater consistency in their products and could allow for completely new products to be created to suit specific consumer tastes.  Permitting blending is stated could also present scope for business development and jobs in creating and facilitating blending operations in GB.

Foil wraps and mushroom stoppers

The government is proposing to amend retained EU law to give producers the choice of whether they want to market certain types of sparkling wine with a mushroom-shaped stopper and a foil sheath.

Removing the wine certification arrangements

The government intends to amend retained EU law (Regulation 1308/2013 Article 120(2), Regulation 2019/33 Articles 51 and Regulation 2018/274 Chapter 3) to remove wine certification arrangements. Currently, a wine that does not have a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) can only show a vintage and, or a grape variety used on its label if it has been through an official certification scheme that is managed by the industry in conjunction with the Food Standards Agency.

The EU introduced the certification system to counter concerns that controls had to be  placed on the use of vintage and variety use to match the level of scrutiny to which PDO and PGI wines were subjected.

The government’s proposal to remove the wine certification arrangements could reduce unnecessary and unjustified red tape and increase producer competitiveness. It is stated Defra consider the certification arrangements to present an unnecessary barrier to marketing wine with a vintage or varietal (or both), but which do not, or cannot enter the PDO or PGI schemes. It is stated Defra consider the veracity and frequency of checks on GB wine production by FSA inspectors, and the relatively small size of the domestic production industry reduces any risks of falsification.

Removing rules on bottle shapes.

The government is proposing to amend retained EU law (Regulation 2019/33 Article 56 and Annex 7) to remove rules that define the characteristics of certain types of bottles that must be used for marketing certain EU wines. For example, a ‘Flute de Alsace’ is a long[1]necked thin bottle used to market Alsace

Revoking retained Regulation (EC) 2019/935 setting out GB methods of analysis and controls on enrichment

The government is intending to revoke retained Regulation (EC) 2019/935 and remove a redundant method of analysis for a wine production practice that is not used by our wine industry, nor is it intended to be used in the future. It will also allow the removal of a provision concerning the arrangements that Defra Ministers can apply, with the agreement of the relevant authorities in Wales, to allow an increase in the natural alcoholic strength of a wine where there have been exceptionally unfavourable weather conditions.

Ice wine

The government is proposing to amend retained EU Law to introduce rules that will govern how products marketed as ‘ice wine’ must be produced.

Although GB does not produce Ice Wine, and it is not defined in REUL, a definition for it is required to ensure consumers can identify products that are made according to the specified criteria that apply to the production of ice wine. This definition will enable the UK to comply with international obligations, including the future accession of the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement.

This would mean products could only be marketed as ‘Ice Wine’ if they have been produced from grapes harvested when frozen on the vine.

Introducing new oenological practices

The government is proposing updating the list of oenological practices so our wine producers have access to the latest technological developments and winemaking practices.

Transforming wine sector products in Great Britain

The government proposes to amend retained EU law (Regulation 1308/2013, Annex 8,Part 2, Point B) to remove the ban on transforming imported wine in GB. REUL restricts the transformation of wines or wine sector products in GB unless they derive from grapes grown in the UK. Removing the restriction on transformation could allow for imported wine to be transformed in several ways. These include:

  • • carbonation of imported wines
  • • de-alcoholising wine
  • • sweetening or reducing alcohol in wine
  • • making wine from imported grape must
  • • the import of grapes and the production of wine in GB

In all cases where an imported wine sector product is transformed (either by carbonation, sweetening, alcohol reduction, pressing and fermenting imported grapes), the origin of the finished product would remain that of where the grapes were harvested. For example, the sweetening of bulk imported Australian wine in Great Britain would not change that from being an Australian wine on the shelf. Another example would be Spanish grapes imported to Great Britain for pressing and fermenting – the resulting wine would continue to be marketed as a Spanish wine. The changes would enable products currently labelled as ‘British wine’ to become a wine of origin and be labelled according to the country of grape origin. Defra consider this will create an opportunity to redefine ‘British wine’ as ‘made wine’, addressing an issue that has the potential to confuse consumers.

Made-wine is any other drink that has alcohol made by fermentation apart from cider, not by distillation or any other process. For example, mead is a made-wine.

This is stated to be an opportunity for wine in Great Britain and the bottling and re-export industry, and lead to new, better quality and a variety of products being available to consumers.

  • Low and no alcohol “Wine”

The government is intending to amend the definition of wine to permit wine to be produced and marketed to a minimum of 0% alcohol by volume. This will permit the production of naturally lower alcohol wines and also permit the complete or partial dealcoholisation of wine.

  • Carbonation of imported wine

Turning still wine into sparkling wine in Great Britain would allow our businesses to add value to imported still wines and offer increased consumer choice of products on the market. It is not efficient to transport sparkling wines in bottles long distances, due to high shipping costs and CO₂ implications. Shipping wine in bulk is estimated to reduce CO₂emissions by up to 40% when compared to wine shipped in bottles.

  • Producing wine from imported grapes

The government is proposing to allow for the import of wine grapes to be fermented in Great Britain. Before the UK left the EU it was legal to move EU grapes around the EU to make wine.

  • Sweetening

Allowing bulk wines to be sweetened in Great Britain is stated could open new possibilities for UK bulk import trade.

New arrangements for recognising and recording oenological practices and processes approved in GB

The government is considering options to amend retained EU law to permit the establishment of an official register of approved oenological practices, processes and restrictions (OPPR) which can be updated periodically as new practices and processes are agreed.

Other minor reforms to retained EU law

The government also intends to make several minor changes to retained EU wine law.

These will address areas of our policy that are not relevant to our industry given its operating practices or that will arise as part of our consolidation of wine law which will result in a fundamental overhaul of how wine law is written.

Defra states their intention to remove provisions:

  • that prevent the over-pressing of grapes and require that a minimum level of alcohol should be left in the marc (the pomace consisting of grape skins and seeds) and lees (deposits of yeast) after pressing and rules concerning their disposal
  • that prevent the production of other beverages (in addition to alcohol spirit and Piquette) to be made from the fermentation of wine lees or marc
  • relating to practices whereby wine is fortified specifically for distillation

Defra further anticipate that there will be other minor amendments needed to wine law that will only come to light during the process of consolidating REUL HL Bill 117(n) ( into one cohesive framework.

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