The European Union (EU) has recently come under fire from vintners for its lax restrictions of what qualifies as an organic wine – an increasingly popular term to include on wine labels – but also for being exceedingly strict to a particular British vintner for its attempts to create a short-run label as a special collaboration between the U.K. winery and Argentine grape growers.
The U.K. vineyard, Chapel Down's, shipped a good 4,500 pounds of fresh malbec grapes from Argentina to its fermenting and processing facility in Kent, England. The grapes were aged and fermented in American oak barrels for nine months with the special line to be labeled as "An English Salute." The malbec was to be released on World Malbec Day, April 17 and only be available for a short time.
But the EU halted this process after deeming Chapel Down's attempts to produce the malbec as "poorly conceived," according to National Public Radio (NPR). This left the British vintner with 1,000 bottles of malbec that it was unable to sell.
The main problem was that the grapes were grown outside of the EU but the wine was made in England. This violates mandates that were set by the EU to help protect European wineries and grape growers from an increasing migration of cheaper grapes from foreign countries. According to NPR, the result of using outsourced grapes that were processed in Europe is that the bottle could be labeled as "produced in Europe," and then priced under more native competitors.
Rather than being able to maintain the custom label the vintner planned to sell for only a short time, Chapel Downs' only solution is to give away the wine as a "fruit-derived alcoholic beverage from produce sourced outside the EU."