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Nanny State

Sebastian Payne MW - Chief wine buyer

Since November 2005, wine labels must include the words ‘contains sulphites’ or its equivalent. I have mischievously wondered whom such a statement is designed to help or guide. Sulphur dioxide has been used in all wines as an antioxidant and antiseptic as long as anyone can remember. Levels are legally controlled, and good growers tend to use the lowest, as their grapes are healthiest, whether they cultivate organically or not. Has anyone been persuaded to drink less wine or not at all because of this warning? I don’t know. The asthma sufferers I know are happy wine drinkers and remain unaffected.

EU bureaucrats have now decreed that wines fined with whites of egg should be labelled with the phrase ‘contains egg products’. This method of fining (whisked egg whites added to a barrel of wine attract fine particles suspended in it and fall to the bottom of the cask in the gentlest possible way) is a very long-standing process used by top Bordeaux châteaux, among others, to remove excess or unstable tannins that come from the grape skins.

After fining, the clear bright wine is racked off its sediment. No trace of egg white remains – that’s the whole point. Even if infinitesimally insignificant traces were left, would the 0.08% of the adult population allergic to eggs be affected? Is there a recorded instance of anyone having been harmed? Will the world be a safer, healthier place when the wording appears on the label? I am sceptical. If anybody can explain convincingly who this legislation helps, please write in.

Sebastian Payne MW
Chief Wine Buyer

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