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Traceability of wine inevitable under new EC law

The wine industry must prepare itself for sweeping new regulations that will require keeping samples of all wine produced for an indefinite period, a conference in London heard today.

Industry experts speaking at the London International Wine and Spirits Fair said a raft of new EC legislation would make it a requirement for wine producers to be able to prove the origins of every component of their wine.

An EC regulation – which covers all food, animal feeds, and anything which will be incorporated into food and feed – was adopted in January this year. It establishes the principle that a producer is solely responsible for the supply of safe food. ‘Traceability…shall be established at all stages…’ Article 18 on Traceability says.

The UK-based Wine and Spirits Association, with its counterpart in France – the AFED – and with the European Federation of Wine and Spirit Importers and Distributors (EFWSID) has put together a voluntary code of practice which it intends wine producers all over the EC to adopt.

Making clear the legislation was wide-ranging and stipulated no particular methods of comliance, Michael Wight of the UK-based Food Standards Agency said, ‘We’re not going to produce thumping domestic legislation, but we are consulting with food producers in the UK to find out what traceability means to them.’

Wine consultant Angela Muir MW said wine was a very difficult substance to keep track of, for many reasons. It is only made once a year, it is frequently moved and blended, it comes into contact with a variety of substances including wood and many chemicals.

‘If a consumer develops health problems and thinks it is something to do with your wine, how do you establish the facts beyond doubt?’ she asked.

One of the most important components of the WSA code was the taking of samples. To comply with the spirit of the code winemakers should take and store samples at every stage of the winemaking process. These should be kept until the producer is satisfied that the batch they came from has been used up.

Muir stressed it would not be an onerous job. ‘The samples do not have to be sent anywhere, and they are always taken when the winemaker is taking samples anyway,’ she said.

Also speaking at the conference was Dominique Ribereau-Gayon of giant French supermarket Carrefour, which is also a wine producer and negociant. He confirmed that it does not take samples of all its wines – ‘it would be a huge sample and we don’t do it’ – but demonstrated that Carrefour has a formidable range of quality controls in place, from vineyard to shelf.

Commenting on the conference, Michel Chapoutier of highly-respected French producers M Chapoutier, the biggest biodynamic producer in Europe, told decanter.com he was fully behind traceability. His company is working on a project to allow customers to trace the origins of their wine on the web.

‘They can find out everything about a particular bottle, from the vat it came from to the vineyard the grapes were grown in.’

Chapoutier was convinced even the smallest producers would comply with the regulations because it is in their interests.

‘You can learn a lot about the techniques of producing wine. From them it is very interesting,’ he said. He added that Jerome Gallo, chief of the Direction de la Concurrence et des Fraudes (the Fraud office) in Paris, was ‘obsessed’ by traceability in wine.

Written by Adam Lechmere22 May 2002

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