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EU appellations to be granted rights for dealcoholised wine production

Published:  21 April, 2021

Within the framework of the EU’s next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform due on 1 January 2023, geographical indications and protected denominations of origin will be allowed to produce lower-alcohol wines below 8.5% abv.

“A new ‘dealcoholised wine’ category has been created,” says European Federation of Origin Wines (EFOW) advisor Daniela Ida Zandonà. “Table wines will be allowed to go below 0.5% abv, while IGP and PDO wines will be granted rights to dealcoholise down to an abv between 0.5% and 8.5%.”

Zandonà explains that, once the new CAP reform becomes law, it will be up to the single denomination to decide whether to embrace these changes or not, and how to integrate this choice into their own regulations.

According to the CAP reform’s proposal, the EU took the decision “in view of the ever increasing consumer demand for innovative grapevine products with a lower actual alcoholic strength than the minimum actual alcoholic strength set out for grapevine products”. Such rising consumer demand for no & low-alcohol drinks was recently highlighted by consumer research and insights firm Wine Intelligence’s latest Opportunities for Low- and No- Alcohol Wine report.

With Wine Intelligence’s report identifying the consumer’s perception of lower-abv wine as “not really wine” being one of the main purchasing barriers, drinks consultant and no & low specialist Christine Parkinson believes that these developments are set to be “an absolute game-changer for the category”.

“People would definitely buy a lower-alcohol version of the [appellation] wines they usually drink, but these are just not available at the moment. It will be interesting to see which region does it first: I think that once it happens the floodgates will open, because the demand will really be there”, said Parkinson.

Wine Intelligence chief executive Lulie Halstead argues that the introduction of lower-abv appellations wines would certainly help boost consumers’ trust towards the category, provided that these meet their benchmark of what wine should taste like.

“From the evidence that we have, consumers would be more open minded [towards the category] with dealcoholised Chianti or Bordeaux for example, but eventually it all comes back to taste,” said Halstead.

Zandonà points out that more technological innovation is necessary for dealcoholised wines to pass the taste test, yet reveals that “some denominations seem to be very curious about these developments. They were initially sceptical but decided to evolve in line with consumer demand”.

No changes to how European appellations are regulated will be officialised until the CAP reform goes through on 1 January 2023, but Zandonà is confident that “member states won’t reopen negotiations on issues like these which they’ve already agreed on”.

“CAP negotiations are running late,” she says, “and there are still many outstanding issues left to discuss.”