Starting from December 8, 2023, new wine regulations require changes to labels, including detailed nutritional information such as calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and salt, along with a complete list of ingredients. The goal is to enhance transparency and provide consumers with detailed information. However, the introduction of these new labels has raised concerns and controversies in the wine industry, with criticism of the complexity of the rules and their impact on wine production and marketing. Read this article to learn more about the current state of affairs and the industry's reactions.
New Wine Labels: The Regulation
After years of debate, with Regulation (No. 2021/2117), the European Union introduced new rules for wine labels, effective since December 8.
In the past, wine and wine products were exempt from the nutritional and ingredient declarations required for other food and beverages, only needing to provide alcoholic content and allergen information on labels.
It took several years of negotiations for the text to be approved. The new regulation mandates that the label must also include:
- Nutritional content of the wine (calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and salt);
- Complete list of ingredients (which can also be provided online with a QR code).
Wine producers can also voluntarily list the nutritional content per serving in terms of wine glasses, if the volume of a wine glass is specified.
Moreover, if wine producers choose to provide the complete required information online instead of on the label, the QR code must not direct consumers to a webpage containing advertisements or sales content. User data accessing the page via the QR code must not be collected or tracked. The QR code can only direct to nutritional and ingredient information for the applicable product.
The goal is to provide greater transparency to consumers.
New Wine Labels: Criticisms
There have been many criticisms. According to CEEV, the European organization of wine producers, the new rules risked causing fragmentation and complications, jeopardizing market harmonization. Main concerns included the risk of divergent interpretations by Member States, leading to inconsistent labels and hindering cross-border trade.
The request for online information via QR code was seen as problematic, with fears of complications for consumers and potential disadvantages for wine companies. Producers expressed concerns, especially about the economic impact and additional burdens resulting from the need to comply with the new rules, including label changes and online information management. There was a risk that millions of labels could be discarded due to the new rules, causing significant worry among producers. It became clear that the lack of clarity and complexity of the provisions generated criticism, highlighting the need for further clarification and the possibility of adjustments to avoid waste and additional costs in the wine industry.
New Wine Labels: The Supporters
Like all changes, it's a challenge: implementation sparked controversy and intense negotiation. Italy is among the countries that protested the most, concerned about the waste of already produced labels.
Among the many critical voices, Matilde Poggi, president of Cevi (Confédération Européenne des Vignerons Indépendants), stands out. She stated that the confederation had initially resisted, fearing bureaucratization and financial burdens on winemakers, especially small ones. The digitization of labels mitigated the risk.
Poggi says, "The calorie count must be included directly on the label, while the list of ingredients is important. This way, consumers have the opportunity to read and choose. There will be wines with only grapes and sulfur as ingredients, others that will indicate the quantity of enhancers, additives, acids, tannins. Mind you, all things allowed in oenology, of course. But the consumer is informed and can make choices."
Also, Jean-Marie Fabre, president of the National Federation of Independent Winemakers, takes a similar stance and believes it is an opportunity, especially for well-performing wineries: "None of our members believes that this obligation discredits the profession because they have nothing to hide. This transparency, far from being a constraint, is an opportunity. Consumers will be able to compare wine with other beverages, which could be to our advantage."
Even Jacques Carroget, president of the Natural Wine Union, is satisfied with this development and states, "For our members, it will be simple. Since they add nothing, they will simply indicate 'ingredients: grapes' on their labels."
New Wine Labels: Negotiation Outcomes
As seen, the complete list of ingredients can also be provided digitally.
It has also been defined what constitutes an ingredient (technological aids are ultimately not affected unless they are allergens) and the method of calculating the energy value of wine has been developed.
While the original text concerned all wines produced but not labeled before December 8, 2023, including cuvées intended for aging, it was decided that only those produced after this date would be subject to the new rules. The new rules apply to all wines and wine products obtained from the 2024 harvest, while all wines produced before December 8, 2023, will still be exempt from the new rules until stocks are exhausted.
New Wine Labels: The Italian Situation
In Italy, there was much discussion about the QR code leading to the list of ingredients: many producers had organized using the international wording "I," but the EU Commission, with a last-minute decision, clarified that the term "Ingredienti" should be used.
Ceev, the European Committee of Producers, rebelled, stating that publishing guidelines just two weeks before they came into force made it almost impossible for operators to comply.
Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida signed a derogation allowing producers to label and market wines in Italy with the letter "I" next to the QR code leading to the complete list of ingredients.
The new regulations on wine labeling represent a significant change in the European wine industry landscape. While the goal is to provide greater clarity and detailed information to consumers, the implementation of these rules has highlighted challenges related to adaptation and the complexity of the provisions.
The debate among stakeholders is expected to continue, and it is hoped that it will always aim to improve communication with consumers and value the work of winemakers.