Glasnost on wine ‘rigged’ with sugar, Moscow blocks imports


The addition of ‘alien sugars’ (beet and/or cane) to wine is the subject of a years-long diatribe in Europe. Where unfair competition and consumer deception continue, with the support of the Franco-German axis. But Russia opposes this, banning the import of all ‘sugary’ wines that do not report the presence of the alien sugars on the label.

Sugaring, the low-cost trick

Sugaring, that is, the addition of cane- or beet-derived sugars to wine, is a widespread practice in countries less suited to viticulture. In Germany, Austria, Poland, England, Hungary-but also in France (with the exception of its southern regions)-this practice is used extensively to ‘adjust’ structure and alcoholic strength of wines made from grapes that have not matured sufficiently, or are otherwise unsuitable. Nearly two-thirds of French wines are estimated to be artifacted by sugaring.

In Italy , however, the addition of sucrose has been strictly prohibited for more than half a century. So too in Spain, Portugal and Greece. In these countries it is only possible to add grape must, that is, sugar extracted from grapes. But rectified concentrated must (MCR) and solid rectified concentrated must (MCRS) cost much more than ‘alien sugars,’ at least 6 times as much. Therefore, grape-only wine has a higher cost, as well as a higher value, which, however, European consumers are kept unaware of.

Thus, while in Italy and the rest of southern Europe wines are made with only the addition of grape must, the cheaper refined sucrose can be used in North Central countries. With an imbalance in production costs that generates unfair competition in the Internal Market.

Glasnost on sweetened wine

Recent legislation, officially communicated by Moscow to FederMosti, prohibits the entry into the Russian Federation of wines containing sugar but not declared on the front or back of the label. A glasnost that unfortunately does not affect European consumers.

In Europe, in fact, alcoholic beverages (>1.2% vol.) are exempt from the requirement to list ingredients and nutrition table, as is required for the generality of foods and beverages. And lukewarm initiatives by the European Commission have come to nothing.

In addition to the competitive advantage granted to only a few producers, it is now unbearable that consumers are left in the dark. If sugar is used it should be indicated on the label, specifying which one. As on the other hand also requested by Moscow‘, comments Marco Bertagni, coordinator of Must, the European association of must producers. Which has already involved the consumer association Federconsumatori in the battle.

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".