​UK's Post-Brexit: Redefining Wine with Relaxed Alcohol Rules

​UK's Post-Brexit: Redefining Wine with Relaxed Alcohol Rules

Posted by Emily on 18th Oct 2023

The UK government is set to simplify wine rules after Brexit, especially for low-alcohol wines. Right now, a drink must have at least 8.5% alcohol to be called "wine" due to old EU laws. Drinks with less alcohol are labelled differently, like "wine-based drinks." This rule will change next year, making it easier for British winemakers.

Wine Store (26100306706) Mack Male from Edmonton, AB, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, making wine involves fermenting grapes and sometimes removing alcohol for low-alcohol options. However, they still can't use the "wine" label if under 8.5% alcohol, unlike low-alcohol beers or ciders, which have more straightforward rules.

Soon, wines can have 0% alcohol and still be called wine. The government believes this change meets people's growing interest in low-alcohol drinks, offering more choices. This new rule will apply first in England, and thanks to post-Brexit rules, English wines can use the "wine" label across the UK.

This decision comes after research showed that calling non-alcoholic drinks "wine" isn't confusing for buyers. However, there's a small chance people might accidentally buy non-alcoholic wine, thinking it's regular. Despite this, "alcohol-free wine" is a common term in online shopping.

Last year, the EU made its low-alcohol wine rules less strict, but the UK didn't follow as it had left the EU by then.

Other new changes include:

  1. No more foil wrapping requirement on bubbly wine bottles.
  2. The industry group, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, wants clear new labels to keep customers properly informed.
  3. Simon Stannard from the Association supports the changes but suggests clear descriptions of low-alcohol wine to avoid confusion.
  4. The sale of 'piquette,' a French low-alcohol drink, will be allowed, boosting vineyards' profits due to high interest in such products.
  5. There will be more flexibility on what kind of bottles can be used for wine, dropping the strict rules on specific bottle shapes.
  6. No more forced use of traditional corks wrapped in foil for sparkling wines, reducing waste and reflecting current trends.