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Wine Labeling Regulations: Key Updates for American Wineries

On November 24, 2023, the European Commission issued Commission Notice C/2023/1190, providing supplements and clarifications regarding the rules on wine labeling introduced by Regulation (EU) 2021/2117.


commision notice from 24 november 2023 released by the EU regarding the wine labeling regulation

This 12-page document, available for viewing by clicking here, has been thoroughly reviewed by us for your convenience.


Our article categorises the responses to frequently asked questions, highlighting how new information should be displayed in both physical and electronic labeling formats. It also covers the criteria for wines and sparkling wines that the EU considers complete. Those reaching this complete state before December 8 are not obligated to comply with the new requirements.


General Topics


New Mandatory Information on Labels


Commission Notice C/2023/1190 confirms that new mandatory information must be displayed in the same field of vision as the other mandatory data on the container (e.g. bottle), ensuring that all data can be read. This information must be presented with indelible letters and be clearly distinguishable.


Required Details in the Same Field of Vision


If all information is chosen to be displayed on the physical packaging/label:

  • The category of the grape product, including “dealcoholized” or “partially dealcoholized” products, except for wines with a “protected designation of origin” (PDO) or “protected geographical indication” (PGI).

  • The actual alcohol content by volume.

  • The origin.

  • The name of the bottler, and in certain product categories, the producer or occasionally the seller's name.

  • The net volume.

  • The sugar content in sparkling wine categories.

  • Nutritional labeling.

  • The ingredients.

  • Shelf life for grape products that have undergone dealcoholisation.

In the case of using QR codes, the following elements must be displayed in the same field of vision

  • The QR code/electronic marking itself.

  • The energy value (displayed on the packaging or label).


In case of using QR codes, items that must also be physically present on the container/bottle, but not necessarily within the field of vision, include:

  • Substances causing allergies or intolerances.

  • The importer's designation.

  • The batch number.

  • Shelf life for dealcoholized wines.


The Situation of Wines before December 8, 2023


Any wine “produced” before December 8 can be marketed without changes.


What Counts as Produced Wine or Sparkling Wine?


For wines, any product obtained solely by the complete or partial alcoholic fermentation of crushed or uncrushed fresh grapes or grape must.


For sparkling wines, products are considered produced only after the second fermentation and meeting conditions related to alcohol content and overpressure.


Preparation or blending before December 8, 2023, alone is not sufficient for labeling exemption if the above criteria are not met.


Compliance and Inspection


Compliance with labeling rules and production status is enforced by member state authorities. Imported wines brought in before December 8 also qualify for the exemption.


Listing of Ingredients and Allergens


Ingredients


To ensure compliance with the rules, the expression containing the word 'ingredients' must precede the list of ingredients.


Ingredients should be listed in descending order of weight as measured at the time of their use in the production of the food.


Ingredients that constitute less than 2% of the finished product can be listed in a different order.


All allergens and processing aids used in the production of wine that are still present in the finished product, even in altered form, must be listed.


Substances used to increase alcohol content must also be listed. The terms 'grape must concentrate' and 'rectified grape must concentrate' can be replaced with 'grape must concentrate,' but sucrose must be listed separately, which can be replaced with 'sugar' for any type of sucrose.


In contrast, yeasts do not need to be listed as ingredients, except for mannoprotein-based yeast, as it is considered an additive.


Must or Grapes?


In labeling ingredients, the main raw materials of wine can be specified as grapes, crushed grapes, and/or grape must, but in every case, it is sufficient to use the term 'grapes'.


Labeling Allergenic Substances


If allergenic substances are listed on the label, they must be clearly distinguished from other ingredients.


If allergenic substances are listed via QR code or other electronic means, they must be listed on the packaging or fixed label. This list should be preceded by the word "contains," followed by the names of the relevant substances or products.


Allergenic substances must always be listed in a physical form on the labels or on the packaging of wines and sparkling wines


Nutritional Labeling


Calculation or Testing?


Based on the current regulation, the values to be labeled are average values, which can be determined by either:

  • Tests conducted by the manufacturer.

  • Calculating from the known or actual average values of the used ingredients.

  • Based on generally established and accepted data.


Table or Other Labeling?


If there is sufficient space, the nutrition declaration must be presented in a tabular format with aligned numbers.


If space is limited, the nutrition declaration can be presented in a linear format.


The mandatory elements in the nutrition declaration should be listed in the following order: Energy, Fat (of which saturates), Carbohydrate (of which sugars), Protein, Salt.


Nutritional Values with QR Code


When using QR codes for nutrition declaration, all data must be presented in a tabular format with aligned numbers.


If the nutrition declaration on the package or label is limited to the energy value (with the full nutrition declaration provided electronically), the energy value may be expressed using the symbol 'E' followed by the value.


For example:


E: 259 kJ / 62 Kcal (per 100 ml)


Note: The energy content and nutritional values must be expressed per 100 grams or 100 milliliters; no other format is acceptable!


If the energy content of the wine or sparkling wine, or the quantity of certain nutrients, is negligible, it is sufficient to state 'Contains negligible amount of…' near the nutritional labeling, instead of quantifying it.


Variations Between Batches


Due to the nature of production, variations between batches may occur. Therefore, the energy content and nutrient amounts must be indicated as average values that best represent the nutrient content while reflecting natural variations.


Due to changes in the age of wines and sparkling wines, the data indicated must refer to the state of sale.


A separate tolerance and a separate guide are available for the indication of alcoholic strength. In all cases, the rules on tolerances in Article 44 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/33 shall apply.


Characters to be used on the printed label


The Regulation also requires that the characters used to display the information on the physical packaging or label must be at least 1.2 mm in size, regardless of the character shape.


Electronic Labeling


Recommended Systems for Wineries


The EU has not provided clear guidance on specific systems and solutions. The only criterion is that the system used cannot collect or track user data. Electronic devices or e-labels (QR, 2D, 1D, chip) providing a link accessible via smartphone are permissible.


Note: Some free QR code generators track scan counts through redirection, a practice considered data collection. Their use directs consumers to an intermediate link, which involves measurement, so this is not allowed either.


Placement of Electronic Labeling


It is important that the content is placed behind the links in a format that is simple and direct, and similar to how the same information would be placed on the packaging. Winefo's solution is 100% suitable for this.


Accessibility of QR Code Links


The links must remain accessible as long as the product remains suitable for consumption under normal storage conditions. Any changes are the responsibility of the food business operators.


Can stickers or separate labels be used for QR codes?


No. Since the notice states that labels must not be easily removable, this solution is strictly prohibited.


Can the QR code link to the producer's website?


Update: Previously, there was no unified stance on this, so Winefo's solution did not display the producers' websites in a clickable form. We have discontinued this.


The Commission's services have judged that since data collection, tracking, as well as the communication of sales or other marketing-related information is prohibited, indicating the producer's website also falls into this category, and therefore is not allowed.


Can multiple QR codes be used on the same label?


The regulation stipulates that the information must not be misleading or ambiguous to the consumers. However, the phrasing only implies that additional electronically available information cannot be displayed at the expense of the space intended for mandatory information.


Thus, the use of additional QR codes is not prohibited, but it must not mislead consumers, reduce the available space, and must be clearly separated from the reference intended for displaying mandatory information.


Is it sufficient to mark the QR code with a symbol like the letter 'i' for consumer information?


No. The regulation requires that the display be clear, and general expressions or symbols are not considered as such. If the QR code leads to a list of ingredients, similar to physical labeling, the word "ingredients" must be displayed.


Who checks the legality of the links behind electronic labeling?

Similar to the inspection of product labeling and packaging, this task also falls under the responsibility of the same state authorities.


Can a QR code be used that also serves as the European Article Numbering (EAN code) alongside displaying mandatory data?


Yes, but only if, during scanning, the information intended for commercial actors (EAN information for identifying goods) and the information intended for consumers can be clearly separated. Information that is not necessary for consumers must be distinctly separated.


Note: This solution is not recommended by the Winefo team as it is not clear at this stage (29.11.2023) how information intended for different actors on the electronic interface can be considered as fully segregated.


Can a printed web address on the label be used instead of a QR code?


No. Mandatory information must be marked in such a way that they provide immediate access as machine-readable codes. Web addresses do not fall into this category, as they require the consumer to enter them.


What does the regulation consider 'for marketing purposes'?


Any activity and information that are not the neutral, objective presentation of mandatory information.


Therefore, messages that directly or indirectly encourage the reader to make a purchase are not allowed, including through links, or indirectly, for example, with design patterns, visual elements, graphics, expressions, and statements intended to appeal to the consumer's liking.


We hope our summary has helped in understanding the regulation and its supplementary communication comprehensively. For further questions, please contact us; we are happy to help!


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