Spirituous beverages, on 25.5.21 in application reg. EU 2019/787


On 25.5.21, reg. EU 2019/787 on spirit drinks. Definitions, descriptions, presentation and labeling, indications to be included on the label when spirits are used in other foods, regulation and protection of protected geographical indication (1,2).

The new measure repeals the former reg. EC 110/08, with some new features. Unchanged are the exemptions from obligations to list ingredients and nutrition declaration on the label, green light for unregulated use and allusion to traditional products in other beverages. An in-depth study with reference to Italian PGIs as well.


‘Spirits’(spirit drinks) are those with alcohol >15% by volume (14% for egg liqueurs), produced by:

– ‘distillation, in the presence or absence of flavorings, of naturally fermented products‘,
– ‘maceration or similar treatment of plant materials in ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin and/or distillates of agricultural origin, and/or spirits within the meaning of the Regulation‘,
– addition of ‘flavorings, sugars or other sweetening products, and/or other agricultural and/or food products to ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin and/or to distillates of agricultural origin and/or to spirits‘,
– Mixing a spirit drink with one or more of ‘other spirits, and/or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin or distillates of agricultural origin, and/or other alcoholic beverages, and/or
drinks‘ (Article 2)

‘Cream’ is the permissible designation for liqueurs:

– fruit-based, with a minimum content of sweeteners (sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose syrup, liquid sugar, grape must, burnt sugar, honey, carob syrup) and any other natural carbohydrate substance,
– prepared with milk or milk products, ingredients that reg. EU 2019/797 also allows in egg yolk-based alcoholic beverages, as not previously.

‘Blend’ is the spirit drink derived from blending of the beverages listed in Annex I or to PGI with other spirit drinks listed in a different category (in Annex I), or with ethyl alcohol or distillates of agricultural origin.

‘Assembled beverage’,‘assemblage’ or ‘assembled’, on the other hand, is that which is derived from several spirits of the same category, differing only in one or more factors including method of production, distillation equipment used, maturation or aging period, and geographical area of production (EU Reg. 2019/787, Article 2).

Legal names

The name of a spirit drink is its legal designation.
The legal name appears in the designation, presentation and labeling of spirits.

This legalname shall be clearly and visibly stated on the label of the spirit drink and may not be replaced or changed.’ (EU Reg. 2019/787, Article 10.1).

Instead, spirit drink that does not meet the requirements set out in Annex I for the categories of spirit drinks defined therein is subject to the legal designation ‘spirit drink’. In any case, the names may be supplemented or replaced by geographical references, substituted compound terms that include the terms ‘liquor’ or ‘cream,’ supplemented by terms that refer to the uses or allusions referred to below.

Compound terms

Compound terms are permissible provided that the alcohol used in the preparation of the spirit drink (liqueur or cream) comes exclusively from the spirit drink referred to, ‘with theexception of alcohol that may be contained in flavorings, colorings or other authorized ingredients used in the production of that spirit drink.’ They must be listed on the label with equal visibility to the name of the recalled beverage (EU Reg. 2019/787, Article 11).


Allusions are intended as direct and indirect references-in labeling and advertising of other beverages (e.g.
) or different foods-to one or more spirits and/or PGIs (EU Reg. 2019/787, Art. 3.1.3). And they are admitted under the following conditions:

alcoholic beverages other than spirits (e.g., alcopops) may allude to them provided that the alcohol therein is derived exclusively from them, with a requirement that their percentages be referred to, at least once, in the same field of view as the allusion,

liqueurs, creams, sambuca, sloe gin, maraschino, nocino, egg and egg-based liqueurs may in turn allude to other spirits, specifying the quantities,

– solid and semi-solid foods may as well ‘allude’ to codified spirits or geographical indications as long as all the alcohol in the food, comes exclusively from the spirit drink, or drinks, recalled on the label (EU reg. 2019/787, Article 12), (4)

flavorings are finally allowed to allusions to spirits, not also to PGIs, as long as they are preceded by the words ‘aroma’ or the like (Article 10.7, last paragraph).

Special graphic requirements are provided for allusions accompanying alcoholic beverages to avoid misleading consumers about the nature of the product. The allusion must come in characters no larger than half of those used for the name of the alcoholic beverage and must not appear on the same line (EU Reg. 2019/787, Art. 12.4).

Origin and provenance

The indication of origin of the primary ingredient was expressly excluded for spirits registered as PGI (EU reg. 2018/775, Art. 1.2). Reg. EU 2019/787 goes further – in Article 14, effective from 8.6.19 – specifying that:

– The indication of origin or provenance of the primary ingredient referred to in reg. EU 1169/2011 ‘not mandatory for spirits‘,

– the place of origin, for spirits, coincides with the country of origin.

‘Should the place of origin of a spirit drink, which is not a geographical indication or trademark, is indicated in the designation, presentation or labeling of the spirit drink, it corresponds to the place or region where the step in the production process that gave the finished spirit drink its essential character and distinctive qualities took place’ (EU reg. 2019/787, Art. 14.1).

Geographical Indications (GIs)

The link between a delimited geographical area and a certain quality of the beverage, its reputation or another characteristic is sufficient to motivate a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), for the generality of foods, or a Geographical Indication (GI, or GI) for spirits. (5) The specification shall identify the physical, chemical or organoleptic characteristics, including the specific characteristics of the product, where appropriate including in relation to the raw materials.

The description of the production method-and possibly that of local, authentic and consistent methods-may include requirements for packaging in a defined geographical area. Provided they give reasons, which may relate to guaranteeing origin, safeguarding quality, ensuring controls (reg. EU 1151/12, Article 7).

Spirit drinks, Italian GIs

There are now 34 Italian GIs in the spirits category, accounting for 13.7 percent of the total among the 248 Protected Geographical Indications Made in Italy registered in the EU. (6) These include the Italian brandy , the grappa and the sambuca, various fruit brandies from northern Italy, gentian and genepy, and numerous other liqueurs, from limoncello from Sorrento to mirto from Sardinia, vermouth from Turin, nocino from Modena etc.

The electronic single register of European PGIs (or PGIs, Protected Geographical Indications) and GIs (or GIs, Geographical Indications), eAmbrosia, from 2019 also includes protected designations of spirits. (7) In addition to those of wines and food products.

Sugar at will, without indicating calories or ingredients

Rum, whiskey, brandy and spirits may be sweetened only to round off the flavor, within the limits set and expressed in grams/liter of invert sugar (EU reg. 2019/787, Article 7.2.e). For liquors and other codified beverages, however, a minimum limit of sweetening is established. So as to preserve traditional methods of production, ensuring consumers unambiguous legal designations in the domestic market.

Energy value (kcal) and nutrition declaration, as well as the list of ingredients, however, remain excluded from the list of mandatory label information. Subject only to the mandatory duty to indicate the possible presence, even in traces, of substances capable of causing food allergies or intolerances in consumers vulnerable to them. (8) On the basis of an unjustified exemption, which continues with the complicity of the European Commission at the behest of Big Alcohol (3,9).

Transitional measures

Spirit drinks that do not meet the requirements of Regulation (EU) No. 2019/787 – as long as they meet the requirements of Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 and were produced before 25.5.21 – may be marketed until stocks are exhausted (EU Reg. 2019/787, Article 50.1).

Dario Dongo


(1) Reg. EU 2019/787, on the definition, description, presentation and labeling of spirit drinks, on the use of spirit drink names in the presentation and labeling of other foodstuffs, and on the protection of geographical indications for spirit drinks and the use of ethyl alcohol and distillates of agricultural origin in spirit drinks, and repealing Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32019R0787&qid=1609779152655&from=EN
(2) Reg. EU 2018/775 and origin of liquor ingredients. Lawyer Dario Dongo answers.. FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements). 12/30/20, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/domande-e-risposte/reg-ue-2018-775-e-origine-ingredienti-dei-liquori-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo

(3) Dario Dongo. Alcoholic beverage labels, Commission confirms exemptions on ingredient list and nutrition table. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3/16/17, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/etichette-delle-bevande-alcoliche-la-commissione-conferma-le-deroghe-su-elenco-ingredienti-e-tabella-nutrizionale

(4) Without prejudice to the use of alcohol from different sources that may be contained in other ingredients (e.g., candied fruit in spirit, ethyl alcohol in baked goods dough)
(5) Reg. EU 1151/2012, on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. Consolidated text as of 12/14/19 at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?qid=1610806959885&uri=CELEX%3A32012R1151

(6) See MiPAAF website, IG spirits. https://www.politicheagricole.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/10160

(7) European Commission. eAmbrosia, spirit drinks, https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/food-safety-and-quality/certification/quality-labels/geographical-indications-register/

(8) The exhaustive list of substances subject to mandatory label claims-and those derived from them but excluded from such a requirement (e.g. ‘Grains used in the manufacture of alcoholic distillates, including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin‘, wheat-based glucose syrups and barley-based glucose syrups) – is established in Annex II to reg. EU 1169/11

(9) Dario Dongo. Big Alcohol and a century of science in its service. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.11.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/big-alcohol-e-un-secolo-di-scienza-a-suo-servizio

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.