Do EU organic rules for wine leave glass half empty?

Tue Apr 24, 2012 8:50am EDT
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By Svetlana Kovalyova

VERONA, Italy (Reuters) - Italian vintners who avoid chemicals are disappointed with the new EU rules for labeling wines organic, saying the long-awaited criteria are too "lax".

After lengthy debate, the European Commission agreed in February on a set of conditions which will allow a wine made from organic grapes to be called "organic wine". Such a label is expected to lure health-conscious consumers around the world.

Reaction from Italy, Europe's second-biggest grower of organic grapes after Spain, was mixed: with cheers from the agriculture ministry and skepticism from farmers who put a lot of effort and funds into making chemicals-free wine.

"The rules are too broad. With my own rules, I am much more restrictive than Brussels," Gregorio Dell'Adami de Tarczal, owner of an organic farm in Tuscany and winemaker, told Reuters at a wine fair at the end of March.

New rules for the much-contested use of sulphites in wine are the most thorny issue.

De Tarczal, who makes 30,000 bottles of wine and 2,000 bottles of grappa a year from organic grapes he grows without chemical pesticides or fertilizers, said he already adds only 20-25 mg of sulphites per liter, way below the new EU rules.

Health-conscious consumers tend to shy away from products containing sulphites which are added as preservatives to wine, foods and cosmetics but can be an irritant which causes rashes and wheezing in people who are sensitive to them.

Under the new EU regulation which kicks in with this year's wine harvest, maximum sulphite content for organic wine will be cut by 50 mg per liter from the levels allowed for conventional dry wines and by 30 mg per liter for sweet wines.   Continued...

A bunch of grapes is seen during the harvest in Fabbri's vineyard in the Chiantishire in Tuscany, south of Florence, October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito