WSTA calls for relaxed Euro laws

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association is pushing for a relaxation of European laws on the production of reduced-alcohol wine.

European wines made using reverse osmosis or spinning cone technology cannot currently be exported within the EU.

Wine from the USA produced using these technologies can be sold in the EU under the terms of a bilateral agreement, and a similar deal with Australia may follow. The current law is restrictive and unfair on European producers, says the WSTA.

The rules have already caused problems for retailers hoping to capitalise on trends towards lower-alcohol wine.

In August, the Food Standards Agency ordered retailers to remove two lower-alcohol wine ranges - Plume and Sovio - from shelves because they had been made using the banned methods.

WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: "We are seeking a temporary exemption from the EU so the wines can be sold in the market place.

"Lower-alcohol wine has become much more popular with everyone. The government wants to see it, retailers want to stock it and consumers say they want to buy it, so we hope it won't take too long for things to change."

Mark Beasley, managing director for Sovio distributor DB Wines, dubbed the law "archaic" and praised the WSTA for tackling it.

He said he was in talks with the FSA over its decision to withdraw the Spanish brand from sale.

"Our argument, which is supported by high ranking people in Brussels, is that at 8 per cent, Sovio falls outside the wine category," said Beasley.

Beadles said the WSTA would be putting pressure on the UK government to push for change, and he was "quietly confident" that the ban will be lifted.