After 15 years of lobbying, New Zealand’s sweet wines have been cleared for sale in the UK.
The new legislation, reached after an agreement was struck with the EU, is titled ‘Notice of Overseas Market Access Requirement’.
It has been issued by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, which effectively relaxes the rules on EU countries importing wines with a natural potential alcohol level of more than 15%, which applies to almost all New Zealand sweet wines.
David Cox, European director of New Zealand Wine Growers, told decanter.com he ‘genuinely believed’ the wines would be a success.
‘New Zealand’s sweet wines are exceptionally good, and have many of the hallmarks of cool-climate winemaking, with great acidity and fruit-driven aromas.
‘Each time we have shown these wines at our trade tastings they have been extremely well appreciated by members of the on- and off-trade and the importers have been impatiently waiting for the day that they could be sold legally.’
The wines’ performance at competitions is evidence of their acceptance.
For example, Seifried Estate’s Winemakers Collection ‘Sweet Agnes’ Riesling Icewine from Nelson has won the either an International Trophy for Best Sweet Wine, or Regional Trophy for best New Zealand Sweet Wine at the Decanter World Wine Awards for the past three years.
While producers are pleased with the ruling, some, like Marlborough-based Framingham Winery, are disappointed that EU rules still state that wines must have a minimum alcoholic content of 8.5%.
Framingham makes a number of sweet wines ‘in a very Germanic style’, according to winemaker Andrew Hedley, which at 7%–8% alcohol would not be permissible in the UK.
But Hedley still welcomed the new legislation, claiming that it will ‘allow us to bring another dimension to our offerings in the UK’.
UK retailers The NZ House of Wine and The Wine Society say they are likely to stock NZ sweet wines in the near future.
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Written by Stuart Peskett