The Growing Need for wine Laws in India
Indian wine industry has been growing at a fast pace but there are still no wine laws to define various standards to check frauds, safety of consumers and in general define wine processes whereas international wine business is controlled through varied degrees of tightness through legislative controls and bilateral trade obligations. Rajeev Seth gives examples of some aspects of the global laws and regulations of which there is a growing need in India.
What are wine laws?
Wine is regulated by regional, state, and local laws. The laws and their relative rigidity differ for New World and Old World wines. Old World wines tend to have more stringent regulations than New World wines.
Why wine laws
In the international wine trade there are a number of different approaches for the import of wine from requiring imported wine to use the same oenological practices as the wines of the country into which it is imported, to the EU’s approach of bilateral wine trade agreements with individual countries that cover permitted oenological practices, and the multilateral Mutual Acceptance Agreement on Oenological Practices between the member states. In terms of labeling of additives, all jurisdictions will soon require labeling of sulphites and Australia and New Zealand require the labeling of additional allergens.
What are Oenological Practices?
How Wine can be adulterated?
How the additives have been misused in the past
In terms of misuse without serious health implications, there have been a number of examples since the turn of the century. In 2000, glycol was found in low-end Alsace wine leading to the wines’ withdrawal and not much else. In 2004, there were rumors of a cover-up of a scandal about additives in Bulgarian wine (Gebler 2004) and watered down Bulgarian wines were found on sale in 2003.
The UK Wine Standards Board is currently investigating Spanish wines with added sucrose, alcohol and water. In 2000, two unhappy employees accused an Australian winery of adding silver nitrate to their wines to improve aroma. The winery was ﬁned, its future production was tested for the additive and it was audited to ensure it complied with all wine laws.
Probably the most well-known scandal is the Austrian “anti-freeze” scandal. In 1985, it was discovered that some Austrian wines contained diethylene glycol which gave the wines more body and made them taste sweeter (Robinson 1999). This revelation led to a drop in the demand for Austrian wine outside Austria, and a move to stricter wine laws. The additive which is used as anti-freeze does not harm people but is illegal so the health aspects were not serious. The addition was discovered after a red ﬂag was raised by a tax official who could not understand why a wine producer was claiming for VAT spent on diethylene glycol. Additionally, Japanese wines were also found to be contaminated with diethylene glycol from blending of Austrian wines, permitted by weaker laws on origin labeling.
The most relevant scandal from the point of view of South Africa is the recent ﬂavourants scandal. In an article published on 14 November 2003 in the South African daily newspaper, Business Day, Michael Fridjhon a well-known wine industry personality described the rumors circulating in the South African wine industry about the use of ﬂavourants in Sauvignon Blanc . Note that all these ﬂavourants can be legally used in alcoholic beverage coolers in SA. The Wine and Spirit Board responded on 18 November 2003 with a statement that they had been developing a detection method, and that it would be applied to the 2004 harvest (Wine and Spirit Board 2003). In the one case, green peppers had been used and in the other case, synthetic ﬂavourants. Although neither of the additives was harmful to human health, they were both illegal in terms of South African wine legislation.
There is also misuse which could be viewed as bending the laws rather than breaking them. An example is the use of reverse osmosis in Europe which is permitted for must concentration but not for wine concentration. One famous Italian winemaker, has claimed that most reverse osmosis in the EU is done illegally because it is applied to remove water from the wine after fermentation as opposed to being used for must concentration before fermentation, which is legal (Beckett 2003).
In California, the addition of water is a big issue. Unlike the federal winemaking regulations which permit water addition for a variety of reasons, the state laws of California are much more restrictive, and only permit the minimum water required to facilitate a normal fermentation. Water can also be used to reduce alcohol levels to produce more elegant wines and addition for this reason is not permitted within the legislation, however it is difficult to distinguish between the two practices. It is claimed that this “watering back” is common and that much of the wine produced in California has had water added before or during fermentation.
Standards of Wines
Complications in standard specifications arises when certain limits vary from one jurisdiction to another usually in specification value for their contents of ethyal alcohol, residual Sugar levels, pH values, total acid contents, volatile acidity, total sulphur dioxide, free sulphur dioxide, Copper, Iron and Tannins levels and Thus making it imperative for all export consignments to meet all Standard specification applicable in the jurisdiction of Export destinations. However in order to avoid these complications the new world country producers have enacted Mutual Acceptance Agreements (MAA) between the member nations and these group is known as World Wine Trade Group. However EU is not a member of this group and has in place other Bilateral Trade agreements or sometimes arrangements to avoid these complications.
Why India Need consistency in wine policy with Wine Regulations in place
The challenge is to adapt the production structure and regulatory framework in the interest of a sustainable and competitive Indian wine industry with long-term prospects.
International Wine Regulations
Rajiv Seth is a wine educationist, Author and an expert in International Wine Legislation especially European Union. In 1987, he became the first Indian to be awarded a gold medal from WSET, London. He also writes for DelWine.