Confusion over ‘British’ wine damaging England’s reputation

Cheap wine made from imported grape juice labelled as “British” is causing consumer confusion and damaging the reputation of English wines according to one producer.

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Silver Bay Point is one of many ‘British’ wines that may be causing consumers confusion over its origins

Aldi, Lidl and Tesco all sell low cost wines made in the UK from imported European grape juice that are legally allowed to be labelled as “British”.

A growing number of English wine producers are worried that the “disingenuous” practice is damaging the reputation of England’s high-quality homegrown wines.

Richard Balfour-Lynn

Richard Balfour-Lynn

Richard Balfour-Lynn of Hush Heath in Kent believes that consumer confusion about British wine is leading to the misconception that UK-grown grapes are low quality.

“The key to exporting our increasingly popular English wines around the world is quality control. Discounted wine being labelled as ‘British’ suggests to the consumer that their bottle of low-cost wine is grown and processed here,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.

“The danger going forward is that foreign buyers will not be able to distinguish between our high-quality produce and the imported stuff. If they are put off by it that hampers our efforts to build a reputation abroad,” he added.

While a wine can only be called ‘English’ if it is made from grapes grown in England, ‘British’ wine can be made from grapes grown elsewhere, so long as the juice is fermented and bottled in the UK.

Many of the grapes used for the making of ‘British’ wine come from Spain, Romania and Bulgaria. Some sell for as little as £2.49 per bottle.

“Much in the same way that retailers can get away with importing chickens, processing them and packaging them here, the product can be called British – when really it is nothing of the sort,” Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director of the English Wine Producers told The Sunday Telegraph.

English producers are seeking to amend current EU regulation to make it illegal for wines to be labelled as British that aren’t made from grapes grown in the UK.

6 Responses to “Confusion over ‘British’ wine damaging England’s reputation”

  1. Hervé Lalau says:

    Welcome to the world of frauds! This is the privilege of those who create something which is really their own. To think that some say the Brits don’t care about appellations…

  2. TLCLARIDGE says:

    SURELY ALL GOODS SHOULD ONLY MENTION THEIR ORIGINAL COUNTRY OF ORIGIN. ARE WE SAYING THAT WE CAN SEND GRAPES AND UNFERMENTED GRAPE JUICE/MUST TO FRANCE, BOTTLING IT THERE, AND CALLING IT FRENCH WINE? THE TANKER WOULD NOT GET FURTHER THAN CALAIS DOCKS. THERE WOULD BE A REVOLUTION, AND QUITE RIGHT TOO. THIS SITUATION MUST STOP IMMEDIATELY.

  3. Richard Bampfield says:

    Delighted to read that English producers are lobbying to have the current EU regulations regarding the term “British Wine” changed. I don’t think it is disingenuous of the retailers to sell wine under the label “British Wine” – they are just obeying EU regulations which were originally misguided and now (in the light of the growing distribution of English wine) patently misleading.

  4. Nick B says:

    Although it is a ridiculous situation to import grapes from overseas and label it British (as pointed out above), fears that this will confuse consumers regarding the quality of English wine are not limited to this example. Many British drinkers question the higher price points of English wines and want to know why (for example) prosecco is £10 and ESW is £20+. Educating consumers as to why a drink costs a certain amount and what goes into its creation could be just as valuable as changing laws.

  5. The term British Wine has been a thorn in the side of the English wine industry since the dawn of time. The trouble is that British wines were there first. I have been selling English wines for 40 years and my customers use the terms English and British interchangeably. Until now the scope for confusion has been limited. With the appearance on the shelves of Dhamecha Cash and Carry of a Pinot Grigio and a Merlot [on offer at £13.99 for a case of 6] we could be entering a new phase. In fairness, it was fairly clear from the label that these wines were not made from home grown grapes but at the time I did not look that closely, and many would not look at all. I agree with all the above comments. I love the idea of our grapes crossing the channel and being ‘made’ into French wine. TLClaridge is right that the French would take to the streets. But we don’t quite do revolution in this country, do we?

  6. Jean Taylor says:

    Take a page out of Canada’s book England!!! Don’t tread down that slippery slope!! Because we flooded the market with cheap CIC (Cellared in Canada) table wine 30+ years ago, our industry is now having to fight and claw our way back to respectability and bust our butts re-educating the world on TRUE Canadian wine! There is a whole global wine community out there that doesn’t believe Canada makes drinkable wine, when in fact we make some of the finest appellation specific wine out there!! but thanks to CIC plonk it’s a tough sell and an uphill battle everyday!!

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