Wine trade

Wine regulations


Wine production, distribution and sale are highly regulated. Strict rules apply to:

  • quality and additives in making different types of wine
  • labelling
  • record keeping

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) enforces these wine regulations in the UK.

In wine production and sale, various other laws govern:

  • tax
  • licensing
  • trade marks
  • trade descriptions
  • weights and measures
  • food safety
  • consumer protection
  • alcohol duties

Wine quality standards

To ensure the quality and safety of wine products, there are practices and processes that growers and wine makers must follow by law. Wine wholesalers and retailers must also ensure they have the necessary documentation for the wines they buy.

Wine quality standards cover:

  • minimum and maximum alcoholic strengths
  • acidity
  • sweetening additives
  • residual sugar content
  • fermentation additives
  • enrichment additives
  • clarifying agents
  • total sulphur dioxide
  • copper content
  • iron content
  • sterility (from yeast)
  • protein stability
  • wine blends

There are different rules for different categories and sub-categories of wine.

Wines should have certificates of quality status, certain kinds of closures, labels and documentation to guard against fraud.

The penalties for non-compliance with wine regulations range from warnings to prosecution. At retail level, local Trading Standards Service make inspections and enforcements.

Wine labelling rules

Labelling rules apply to all wine produced and marketed in Northern Ireland. In the absence of specific wine-labelling rules, food regulations apply. Trading standards and trade descriptions may also apply.

Some information must be included on the wine bottle label for the different categories and subcategories of wine. There are also differences in requirements for the UK, EU and other regions.

Enforcement of wine regulations

The FSA is responsible for the enforcement of wine regulations in the UK. This covers all premises and traders within the production and marketing chain, including wholesalers, warehouses and vineyards. Retail premises come under the control of local authorities.

You can contact the Wine Standards Inspection Team by email at or through your regional inspector.

  • FSA Wine Enforcement & Regulatory Advice
    0173 282 4661