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South African Wine Reports May Be Premature

Last week, a proposal to “water down” South African wines was created by Wine Cellars South Africa. The proposal seeks to change South African wine legislation and legalize adding water to grape must in “controlled quantities before fermentation.” (See South African Wine Plan Breaches European Laws.) This proposal aims to reduce the alcohol content of South African wines, as well as increase the quality of South African wines. The designers of the proposal were unsure as to whether or not the European Union’s position on wine laws would affect the exports to the EU. Subsequently, the UK Wine and Spirit Trade Association confirmed that such supplement of water is not permitted under current OIV and EU laws.

Yesterday, the CEO, Su Birch, of trade body Wines of South Africa (WoSA) reported that “the country’s wine produced may flout EU production regulations . . . [and are] premature.” (See WoSA chief tempers EU wine contravention reports.) Birch reasons that news of the proposal spread too quickly and that, if the watering of wine laws is not allowed under EU laws, then such practice will not be allowed in South African wines exported to the EU “regardless of whether or not it could be allowed for the local market any time in the future.” Additionally, WoSA reported that the proposal is “highly unlikely” to be passed by the country’s Wine and Spirit Board because of its clear violation of EU laws.

(Source: South African Wine Plan Breaches European Laws and WoSA chief tempers EU wine contravention reports; Image credit: South Africa: Where Is the Rainbow?)

Lindsey A. Zahn


Lindsey is the founder and author of On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog. She is an alcohol beverage and food attorney and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

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