Watchdog bans low-alcohol wineAlcohol-cutting process banned in UK

01 November 2007

 

A glass of red wine

The UK's wine watchdog has banned the sale of a low-alcohol drink in a row over manufacturing rules.

Sovio, a 'wine' which contains just 8% alcohol, has been removed from wine lists on the orders of the Wine Standards Branch of the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The alcohol reduction process used to make Sovio is 'unauthorised' in the UK under EU law, although it is permitted in France and Spain.

The producer, Croydon-based Sovio Wines, said today it plans a judicial review to overturn the decision.

Wine choice

The company, headed by California-based wine expert Tony Dann, has invested £500,000 in the venture and employs four people.

Mr Dann said: 'It is very difficult to take on a powerful government agency of this kind, but we are determined that the UK's wine lovers should have the same choice as consumers in France, Spain and the New World.'

Sovio is a Chilean distilled wine which is shipped to Spain where the alcohol content is removed using a process called 'spinning cone column'.

The liquid is spun at high speeds until the alcohol separates from the remains of the wine.

A small amount of the alcohol is then returned to the drink and it is shipped to the UK for bottling and sale.

Half the alcohol of normal wine

A glass of Sovio, which was launched in June, contains about half the alcohol content of a normal wine.

It had been available in pubs at £4 per 200ml glass and was due for general sale at £5.99 a bottle.

Advocates say the spinning cone column technique is the only way of reducing the alcohol content of wine with harming the quality of the product.

Under EU rules it can be made in France and Spain, although export is illegal.

Sovio's technique

A spokeswoman for the FSA said: 'Sovio wines uses an experimental technique called 'spinning cone' which is currently not allowed to be sold in the UK, according to regulations set down by Europe.

'Although currently labelled as 'semi-sparkling' it does not meet the criteria of a wine product.

'If re-labelled under a different name, not using the term wine in any way that may cause confusion with wine or table wine produced traditionally, it might be able to be sold in the UK, provided it complies with food labelling legislation.'

Sovio has offered to use the description 'semi-sparking wine aerated by addition of carbon dioxide', which has been refused by the FSA.

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