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Photo for: What’s in the Bottle: A Look at European Wine Labeling Regulations


What’s in the Bottle: A Look at European Wine Labeling Regulations

Exploring the Impact of EU Regulations on Wine Labels and Consumer Information

The European wine industry is undergoing a significant change with the implementation of new regulations requiring ingredients and nutrition labeling for wine and wine products. This shift which was announced in December 2023, aims to provide consumers with more transparency and information about the products they consume. Dr. Ignacio Sanchez Recarte, Secretary General of CEEV (Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins), sheds light on these regulations and their implications for the wine industry.

Dr. Sanchez Recarte explains that while wine has traditionally been exempt from listing ingredients due to its artisanal nature, changes in consumer expectations and regulatory environments are driving the need for greater transparency. He highlights that winemaking decisions change with each vintage, making it challenging to provide a standardized list of ingredients. However, the industry acknowledges the importance of transparency and is working to meet consumer expectations.

The new regulations require the listing of the energy value, alcohol content, and allergen information on physical labels. Other information, such as the full list of ingredients and nutritional content, can be provided online via QR codes. This approach aims to balance consumer information needs with the economic realities faced by small wineries, which would struggle to update labels annually.

Can you explain the rationale behind the new EU regulations requiring ingredients and nutrition labeling for wine and wine products? How do these regulations align with consumer expectations and industry practices?

It is undeniable that consumers want to know more about all the products they buy, and the list of ingredients and nutrition declarations are now a group of information they are used to finding on (almost) every food they buy. In this framework, we, as a sector decided to request EU decision-makers to modify our wine regulation to impose the mandatory communication of this information. When preparing the legislation, decision-makers agreed to modernize consumer information policy and authorize the use of digital support (an e-label). By doing so, on the one hand, they improved consumers' capacity for empowerment because they could access the information in their preferred language. At the same time, they provided wineries with sufficient flexibility to provide this info without disrupting the production process (wine is not made from a recipe and labels cannot be changed every time and at the very last moment).

The new regulations allow for the use of QR codes to provide information about ingredients and nutrition online. How do you think this will impact consumer behavior and engagement with wine labels?

Consumers are moving digital, and the internet is an almost constant part of the lives of many people in the EU. According to Eurostat, in 2020, some 80 % of the EU’s adult population reported having used the internet daily. So, authorizing digital is just adapting policy to reality. In addition, I do not think access to this information will change consumer behavior, at least for the vast majority of consumers, it is more about meeting consumer expectations in terms of transparency.

Some in the industry have expressed concerns about the economic burden of updating labels annually, especially for small wineries. How do you think the industry can address these challenges while ensuring compliance with the new regulations?

We are conscious of the burden – wineries will have to organize themselves to collect, classify, and report the information – and the cost associated. That’s the reason we requested policymakers to authorize the use of digital support. Would you imagine the disruption if wineries were forced to wait until the very last moment, when the winemaker makes the final adjustments before bottling, for sending the labels to the printing? Or if we have to change all the labels every year?

The use of digital support and the use of a trusted, secured, and easy-to-use digital platform, like U-LABEL by Scantrust, to generate compliant information is a fundamental step for companies to minimize the burden and the cost.

Image Source: U-Label

The CEEV had called for an "urgent" suspension of the new regulations, citing potential disruptions to the wine market. What are the main challenges that the industry is facing in implementing these regulations, and how can they be addressed?

Not exactly, we never asked for the suspension of the legislation – many wineries have been working to get ready well ahead of the deadline. We requested the suspension of an opinion from the European Commission concerning how to identify the QR code. Commission opinion was not aligned with the practice adopted by the vast majority of companies and, unfortunately, when the opinion was published, hundreds of millions of labels were already printed! We are coping with this situation thanks to the fact that many member states have accepted we exhaust printed labels. 

How do you see the European wine market evolving in response to these new regulations? Do you think they will have a significant impact on consumer perceptions of wine?

No, I do not think there will be a change in consumer perception. In the wine sector, more than in any other sector, consumers know well the image, role, and the art of the winemaker. They know, there is a process led by humans to accompany a heterogenous product which is the grape, to make the best possible wine. So, I do not think there will be any response by consumers to the new regulations.

The new regulations aim to provide consumers with more transparency and information about the products they consume. How do you think this will affect consumer trust in the wine industry?

The change is positive, consumers will have access to more information about wine products. This move can only go in the direction of fostering consumer trust in wine.

Can you discuss the role of innovation in the wine industry, particularly in the context of environmental sustainability and consumer education about wine production methods?

Because we cannot delocalize our production or just go to a global market to buy the raw material, as other sectors can, we are obliged to know more and better our local system, the interactions between soil, climate, plant, bio-environment and human interaction. We are obliged to be sustainable and best in class because we cannot move our vineyards or change the crop very easily. This increased knowledge and this need to be best in class materializes in innovation for the sector. And we need to communicate these efforts better to consumers. Maybe we used to think that this information was not important because consumers were more focused on the type of wine, however, we now understand how important is to provide all the information, including the one linked to environmental sustainability.

Image:  Dr. Ignacio Sanchez Recarte at Vinum Et Spiritus General Assembly. Great discussion on #Sustainability in the Wine & Spirits sectors.

For example, wine is one of the agri-products with the highest level of organic production and wineries are at the forefront of working under sustainable certificates. 

How do you think the new regulations will impact the competitiveness of European wines in international markets, especially compared to wines from regions with different regulatory frameworks?

The regulations apply to all wines marketed in the EU, so at least in the EU market, there will be a level playing field. When coming to international markets, I tend to think that because our competitiveness will not be affected negatively – advancing in consumer transparency can only make you stronger.

Image: CEEV - Comité Vins, with Wine in Moderation (WiM) Association.

With the growing interest in wine culture in emerging markets like India, how do you see European wines positioning themselves to meet the demands of these new markets?

India has a huge potential. I was there with the EU Agri Commissioner last year and we were able to see the growing interest of the Indian middle class for wine. However, the entry tariffs (+150%) make wines too expensive and limit the investment of wine companies and the development of wine culture in India.

What are some of the key initiatives that the CEEV is undertaking to promote European wines globally, and how do these initiatives align with the new regulations on wine labeling?

At the political level, we continue to fight so that wine companies have easy access to EU promotion programs. We are now working on a set of recommendations for policymakers to simplify the administration of these programs because too often, wine companies renounce this support because of red tape.

Image: OIV - International Organisation of Vine, Wine Congress and General Assembly in Mexico.

At the international level, we promote a harmonized system of labeling, including digital labeling, to simplify the lives of wineries and consumers. In this framework, for example, we are actively supporting the development of an OIV labeling standard covering digital communication that is aligned with the EU legislation.


As the wine industry adapts to these new regulations, it is poised to provide consumers with more comprehensive information about its products. While challenges remain, such as ensuring compliance and managing costs for smaller producers, the move towards greater transparency is a positive step towards meeting consumer expectations and ensuring a sustainable future for the European wine industry.

In conversation with Malvika Patel, Editor and VP, Beverage Trade Network

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