Last Minute Changes in EU Wine Label Regulation Risk Thousands of Labels to be Destroyed

Corbelli Oreste
Corbelli Oreste
March 8, 2024
6 min read
Last Update
European Union flags fluttering in front of an institutional EU building, symbolizing the governing bodies responsible for wine label regulation changes.

Last Minute Changes Risk Thousands of Labels to be Destroyed

The Regulation mandates mandatory labeling of ingredient list and nutritional declarations for wines and flavored wine products starting from December 8, 2023. However, the legislation provides producers with the option to make the complete nutritional declaration and ingredient list available electronically (e-label).

Companies have welcomed this new regulation as a suitable way to inform consumers and have committed strongly to its rapid implementation. Considering the considerable time required to prepare information, modify label designs, and print them, EU wine companies began preparing many months ago to meet the deadline. It is estimated that several hundred million labels have already been printed, with many already on shelves.

However, a significant development occurred just two weeks prior to the commencement of these obligations, set to be enforced from December 8, 2023. The European Commission released guidelines in the Official Journal of the EU (C series of 24/11/2023) concerning the implementation of the wine labeling provisions outlined in the 2017 Regulation (Communication No. C/2023/1190). Notably, Point No. 38 of these guidelines emphasizes that "mandatory food information" must be visibly affixed in a prominent location, ensuring it is easily visible, clearly legible, and, if applicable, indelible.

The guidelines further state that if there is no explicit reference to the electronically provided information on the label, it might be deemed as concealed mandatory information, emphasizing that the QR code must be identified on the label with the term "ingredients" and that generic terms or symbols, such as the information "i", are insufficient to fulfill these obligations. Introducing also uncertainty regarding the linguistic regime to be applied. Even though it seems that this word can be written in any EU language but must be in accordance with the main language chosen for the back label and Finnish authorities have confirmed that the allergen and energy content wording has to be in both Finnish and Swedish too.

In essence, the QR Code alone is no longer sufficient. In the new wine labeling system, the word "ingredients" must be included, ensuring consumers understand what information is accessible through the QR Code containing the complete nutritional declaration and ingredient list.

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This new interpretation dramatically undermines the principle of legal certainty and the legitimate expectations of economic operators, disregarding the political will expressed by legislators in adopting Regulation (EU) 2021/2117. The publication of guidelines just two weeks before they come into effect makes it impossible for economic operators to adapt and also ignores the principle of proportionality between the free movement of goods, competitiveness, and consumer information.

There is a mobilization urging the Commission to urgently modify the guidelines, as it is unacceptable to have a new interpretation published 14 days before the application date. This interpretation would lead to the destruction of millions of already printed labels and our inability to print new labels in time to meet the new regulatory deadline.

Beyond the unrealistic timing for publishing an interpretation affecting labeling practices, the wine community strongly disagrees with the Commission's interpretation itself. In line with this, the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and several member states (including Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal) have officially communicated their concerns to the European Commission. The interpretation is deemed pure bureaucracy, going against the spirit of the regulation, jeopardizing the single market for wines, and disproportionately interpreting regulations on the Common Market Organization and consumer food information. It negates the main advantage of the electronic labeling system.

For further informations, we have discussed with the lawyer Floriana Risuglia - Vice Presidente UGIVI, Delegata ONAV ROMA, AIDV -IWLA, Docente ONAV, Vice Delegata Donne del Vino Lazio, Membro Commissione Diritto Vitivinicolo ed Agroalimentare COA ROMA. The recording is available in Italian under the following link:

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