Food Law News - EU - 2009

Commission Press Release (IP/09/476), 25 March 2009

WINE - Member States endorse wine labelling proposal

On 24 March the Commission obtained the backing of the EU Member States (at a meeting of the Management Committee) for a draft Regulation on, among other things, the labelling of wine. The new rules relate in particular to rosé wine and provide for the option of informing European consumers of the method of production used.

Rosé wine may be produced either by traditional methods (short maceration, partial dripping by draining or complete pressing) or by blending red and white wines. At present such blending is banned in the European Union in the case of ‘table wines'. On the other hand, it is allowed in the case of ‘appellation' wines if the specifications so provide. For example, in France rosé champagne may be produced from the blending of white and red wines. Historically, until 2004, there was also a derogation allowing the blending of table wines produced and marketed in Spain.

At international level the blending of white and red wines is a practice accepted by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). Third countries may therefore use it and export such blended rosé wines to the European Union.

Under the wine reform adopted by the Council in 2007, implementation of which the Commission is completing, much greater use is to be made of the OIV references to oenological practices for European wines. Since the main objective of the reform is to strengthen the competitiveness of European wines, European producers should be given the same opportunities as those in third countries. Thus, following wide-ranging discussions with stakeholders and the Member States launched last autumn, the Commission came out in favour, last January, with the Member States' support, of the abolition of the ban on blending although, of course, the production of ‘appellation' wines should continue to be restricted to traditional methods.

In view of the concerns recently expressed about the lifting of the ban, the Commission has developed an approach based on consumer information by means of labelling. Two label references are to be introduced: ‘traditional rosé', only for wines obtained by traditional methods, and ‘rosé by blending', for wines produced by blending white and red wines. These expressions may be used voluntarily by all producers complying with the relevant criteria. Also, Member States may opt to make either of these expressions (or both) compulsory for the relevant wines produced on their territory.

In this way traditional producers of rosé wine will be able to effectively convey information using a specific term. Where a Member State wishes to use a specific term other than ‘traditional rosé', the Commission is willing to open discussion at any time to replace this expression or extend the range of specific terms.

The new rules on oenological practices, geographical indications (‘appellations') and wine labelling will be formally adopted by the Commission in the next few months, to apply from 1 August 2009. In the meantime the draft text will be forwarded to the World Trade Organisation under the ‘technical barriers to trade' notification procedure.

To go to main Foodlaw-Reading Index page, click here.