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Monday, 21 May 2012

Grapes and Gripes: Wine and the EU

Afghanistan, France, Greece ... so much to think about that a clear headed Blog has eluded me.

So I will write about what stops me loving the European Union wholeheartedly.

First, the charade of a Parliament which transports itself back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg for no better reason than that French amour-propre requires it - or, at least, that the French government is too afraid of the Burghers of Strasbourg who trouser a lot of €uros from this nonsense. Not to mention the removal companies who ship lorry loads of documents back and forth.

Second, wine labelling.

If I drink a bottle of German beer, I can read on the label the contents - water, barley, malt, hops (in that or some other order - I am drinking wine right now). If I eat a bar of Belgian chocolate, I am informed in amazing detail about its contents and calories. Ditto for a pot of French jam.

But when it comes to a bottle of wine, from anywhere in the world, all I get is "Contains Sulphites" or, alternatively, "Contains Sulfites". Since they all contain sulphites or sulfites, I am none the wiser.

So why is it important to label chocolate and jam in obsessive detail, an achievement of EU-wide legislation, and at the same time leave us in ignorance of what's in our wine?

For you can bet your liver it ain't just grapes and sulfites.

Not so long ago, I wanted a glass of red wine with my meal in an unfamiliar restaurant. Looking at the unfamiliar wine list, I asked the waiter to suggest a wine which wasn't oaked. I prefer my wine without creosote. He looked blank but went off to read the labels. Five minutes later he returned mystified: none of the labels on his red wines indicated whether they were oaked or not - no mention of "fûts de chêne" which you sometimes see on French red wines as if it was some kind of desirable thing instead of a way of disguising the taste of inferior plonk.

I settled for the cheapest Italian red which was pleasant and without creosote.

But why can't we know these things? If wine was decently labelled, I would be able to work out what it is in red wines which sometimes gives me a headache. I suspect too much sulfite. I suspect the creosote. But maybe there is something else, like the bulls blood which (used to be?) used to "clarify" the wine.

All I know for sure is that the EU has for some mysterious reason funked wine labelling. Perhaps it is the legacy of the days when the Austrians improved their white wines by adding anti-freeze*, which is a turn-off even for those hardened to creosote.

*True. The scam was brought to light by an officious tax inspector who was puzzled by the vast amounts of ordinary anti-freeze bought by wine producers, even in the mildest regions.

1 comment:

  1. Aside from the fair point that you make about the need for proper labelling,it's misleading to sugeest that oaked wine contains creosote. It produces an aroma which is sugggestive of creosote. Meanwhile, bulls blood is not an ingredient of Bulls Blod labelled wine; the idea is based on a rumour arising from the fighting prowess of Hungarian fighters whose diet included red wine.