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At the end of the year, many corks pop again: the time of production is decisive for the information on the bottles

Photo: kp-photodesign / IMAGO

Winegrowers and sparkling wine producers will have to display information on nutritional values and additives on their bottles from 8 December. However, the information does not have to be immediately found on all bottles, as the producers had feared.

There is a transitional provision in the EU regulation. According to this, wine products produced before this deadline can still be sold indefinitely without the new labels, as a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Berlin explained. "So it doesn't matter whether the products are already labelled on December 8 or are already on the shelf," the spokesman stressed. "The decisive factor is whether the products were already manufactured before 8 December 2023."

Wines are considered to be produced when, after fermentation, they reach the required minimum alcohol content and have the required acidity. "This means that this only applies to the 2024 vintage," said Ernst Büscher of the German Wine Institute. "An exception, however, would be ice wine, if there is still any." This would have to be marked as early as this year, the German Winegrowers' Association announced.

Is a QR code enough?

In the case of sparkling wine, sparkling wine, it is even more complicated. "Sparkling wine is produced when it has reached the required pressure after the second fermentation," the ministry spokesman said. Sparkling and semi-sparkling wines with added carbonic acid are considered to have been produced after this additive, regardless of the base wine. According to the EU regulation, aromatised wine products – such as mulled wines – are considered to have been produced after flavouring.

As a result of this transitional phase, wine and sparkling wine beverages are therefore likely to be marketed only gradually with the complete list of ingredients and nutritional values. In addition to the alcohol content, the information to be included on the labels in the future includes the ingredients and the following nutritional values: calorific value, amount of fat, saturated fatty acids, carbohydrates, sugar, protein and salt.

In addition to being printed, the information on the labels can also be accessed via a QR code – which then refers to corresponding documents or websites, as the ministry spokesman said. "However, EU law does not contain any clear guidelines as to whether and in what form the QR code or link on the label must be labelled in the case of the 'off-label' variant."

The Federal Ministry considers an "i" for information to be sufficient, but the European Commission does not. Rather, in their opinion, "a clearer indication" is needed. The Länder responsible for control in Germany follow this interpretation.