As UK wine law is evolving so is the information required on wine bottle labels and it can be confusing to know what is needed. Below is a summary of the current position and the consequences of making a mistake.

What needs to be included on the label?

The UK Wine Regulations, which are enforced by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), sets out what information needs to be included on a UK wine bottle label. This is split into: 

1. The standard information that every bottle will have; and 

2. The information that is specific to the wine classification. 

The standard information that needs to appear on a still wine bottle is the bottle measure, ABV, bottling location, the term ‘Wine of England’, that it contains sulphites and the lot number. With a sparkling wine bottle it is the above as well as whether it is a ‘quality sparkling wine’ or a ‘sparkling wine’ and the level of sweetness. 

The specific information that is required depends on the wine’s classification as either PDO, PGI, Varietal or Wine. The FSA (together with WineGB) has produced a handy Wine Standards Guide which neatly provides examples of labels for still and sparkling bottles of different classifications. You can find them by searching for ‘FSA wine labels’.

Will I get in trouble if I don’t include these things?

The main objective of the FSA’s Wine Standards Inspection Team is to promote compliance by providing guidance and advice. They only use formal enforcement action where it is necessary to protect consumers. There is no recent case law for proceedings by the FSA relating to bottle labels which indicates these issues are being resolved through co-operation. The FSA has a guidance list to decide how serious an offence is, for example whether it can affect consumer safety (such as missing allergens information), if it was done deliberately or if it is a repeated offence. Having a good track record and acting co-operatively will work in your favour.

If there is an issue with my label what is the likely first step that will happen

Assuming the error on the wine bottle label is not seen as a serious offence and can be corrected by simply changing the labels, the FSA Inspector will usually offer advice and then follow up with another visit or email. 

If the Inspector thinks it is unlikely the advice will be followed then they can escalate action which starts with sending a warning letter, then a formal warning notice and, finally, enforcement action which can end in the wine being destroyed for some offences. However, the chance of this occurring for an incorrect bottle label is extremely unlikely and this escalation is for more serious offences.

Can I get any further help if I’m not sure?

Yes, you can email or your Regional Wine Inspector. I contacted the FSA Wine Standards Team when writing this article and they replied quickly.

Allergens that need to be included 

  • Fish gelatine or Isinglass if used as a fining agent.
  • Milk or egg products if used as a fining agent (if detectable limits in the finished product is above 0.25mg/litre)
  • Sulphur Dioxide exceeding 10mg/litre (always on the label)