I Didn't Know That

I didn’t know* that sparkling wines have foil over the cork and most of the bottle neck by law.

I knew that the practise originated from the earliest times when disgorgement was hit and miss and the foil hid a less than full bottle, but it seems today’s foil is required by law.

It is an EU law that is due to be scrapped in the UK as a result of Brexit and could make English and Welsh fizz cheaper on bottles without it.

Story here
Foil to be scrapped on English sparkling wine? (thedrinksbusiness.com)

*but I expect Steve Slatcher did

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It must depend on what is meant in law by “sparkling wine”

For example some of the Charmat method sparkling wines made in the UK do not have a foil neck cover - eg https://flintvineyard.com

Pretty sure that I’ve bought a pet-nat sparking wine in Spain which did not have such a cover either

How much cheaper? About 10p :grinning:? I doubt that it will mean we will see price cuts.

I doubt even more that these laws will be scrapped, as the whole process of reviewing them seems to be grinding to a halt…quite a number were actually laws where the UK was a proponent.

If this is the extent of the Brexit ‘dividend’ then ‘haud me back’ as we say in these parts!

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Releasing them with crown caps would probably be a bit more of a saving

The lady at Gratien & Meyer told me a while ago that they were having to retain stock because they couldn’t get hold of foil - in addition to a problem getting labels printed following a fire at a major producer.

We wondered later why they didn’t sell their wine without the foil, as a ‘special edition’ or something. Now I know!

It’s quite a strange article, because it states that removing the law ““would also make bottles of fizz around 50p cheaper for consumers to buy”. However, producers they quote say that the 50p figure is much exaggerated and that they will continue to use the foil.

As far as I can tell, almost all still wine having a cork also has a foil. Is this also legally required? If not, then this law change may be a red herring.

That said, the requirement for foils on the bottle necks seems an odd thing to be written into law. It is hard to see who benefits on the face of it.

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The article was possibly written by the same people who painted the side of that bus with “£350m a week for the NHS”.

I assume that any British sparkling exported to the EU/EEA would still need to have a foil as long as the law remains in place in the EU. Admittedly that’s currently a pretty small share of production.

Here is the text of the order :-

Article 57
Rules on presentation for certain grapevine products
1. Sparkling wine, quality sparkling wine and quality aromatic sparkling wine produced within the Union shall be marketed or exported in ‘sparkling wine’ type glass bottles closed with:
(a) for bottles with a nominal volume more than 0,20 litres: a mushroom-shaped stopper made of cork or other material permitted to come into contact with foodstuffs, held in place by a fastening, covered, if necessary, by a cap and sheathed in foil completely covering the stopper and all or part of the neck of the bottle;

Note that it only relates to EU products so has not applied to English wines since Brexit.

This section also details use of four traditional bottle shapes (annex 7).
It seems to me that the foil is just specified to keep with tradition.

Viigo sell the foils at 10p each.

I don’t think so… (?) :thinking: I’ve had several Swiss wines with cork but no foil, and I think (but have to double check) wines from Savoie with cork but no foil too.

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One of the Bin Series wines had no foil, I’m sure.

The Society’s Claret now has no capsule, as part of the “new look” for the Society range:

The Society’s range: reviewed, refreshed, relaunched

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Unless it has been specifically repealed, amended or replaced since Brexit (and this article would suggest it has not), it would continue to apply in the UK as retained EU law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

The proposed Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill would allow various retained EU laws to be repealed, amended or replaced, and this may (or may not) be one of them.

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I should imagine - as with all things brexit - that the crushing weight of reality will erase any imagined advantage or benefit that was supposed to be conferred by it.

In this instance, I would suggest the market perception for quality sparkling wine is that it has to have a foil - being that the benchmark producers (and benchmark setters) for quality in the market have to use foil.

I don’t think I’ve ever had an American sparkling wine, but I suspect that’s pretty much where they’re at. I suspect you’d have to be world-beaters or very niche to buck that trend and be prepared to stand out of the crowd. Another chimera.

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I’m a bit perplexed by this, as there’s plenty of pet-nats from European countries currently on the market which are sealed with crown caps and no foil. Also Prosecco Frizzante is often sealed with a cork secured with string, again with no foil. Am I missing something?

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Yes, this is what I referred to above, thanks for giving the detail, and it’s very much ‘proposed’ at this point! The work involved is huge, and massively disproportionate to the dubious benefits.

I’m a bit confused because I bought a case of this (2014 vintage) back in 2020 and it definitely does not have a foil cover.

Did I miss something?

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I agree and I assume that it is still law here in the UK.
But look again at the text - it only applies to EU produced sparkling wine.
After Brexit, any sparkling wine made in the UK was not made in the EU hence was not covered by this order.

The order was part of:
COMMISSION DELEGATED REGULATION (EU) 2019/33
of 17 October 2018
so may not have covered your bottle.

I don’t know what the regime in force was before then.

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Three ESWs I have. Wolstonbury is Charmat but Breaky Bottom is traditional method. Go figure… does it matter?

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The weasel words being ‘if neccessary’.

Presumably case law does not exist regarding what is and what isn’t ‘neccessary’ - so until that has been resolved … the producer can do what they like ?

Certainly whilst maturing ‘sur lie’ in the cellars in Champagne there isnt a foil covering, so it serves no purpose regarding maturation. I suspect it’s there to cover up any signs of the contents leaking due to pressure in the bottle.

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