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British Wine


The product sold in the UK as 'British Wine' is not British, and cannot properly be called 'wine'.

Wine is a drink made from the fermented juice of fresh grapes. A wine takes its name from the country it comes from. Simple! So 'English Wine' is wine made in England from the juice of fresh grapes - and English Wine is generally excellent quality. But, you may be surprised to discover, it isn't 'British Wine'.

A legal curiosity means that wine-type-drinking-products made in the UK, or Ireland, from non-fresh, imported, grape juice can't be called 'wine', but they can be called 'British Wine', which sounds odd, but probably harmless. For a century British firms have been using this trick to make fairly crappy fake imitations of sherry and port, but they've always sold it cheap so it hasn't really mattered too much. But recently (2018) it has stopped being harmless. As the grape juice is usually imported as a concentrate it's up to the makers to dilute it with water as much as they like - and dilute it with water they do. And because it isn't really 'wine' it isn't covered by the strict EU wine-making rules, so, having diluted it, the makers can bulk it out with as much sugar as they fancy. You can make a weak, thin, tasteless liquid, put it in bottles labelled 'Merlot' or 'Chardonnay' and sell it for, oh, just a little bit less than the real thing, and get away with it - as long as the small print says 'British Wine'.

So, it is important to note the distinction between English wine and British wine. English wine is produced from fresh grapes grown in the UK, whereas British wine is a form of 'made wine' (qv) which can be manufactured in the UK and Ireland from imported grapes, grape juice, grape must or a combination of these with fruit or fruit juices etc. Although 'made wine' products can be called 'wine' they must be prefixed with a term such as British, mead, fruit, tonic etc. These products are not governed by the EU Wine Regime.

A popular sherry-style fortified British Wine

Bensly's British Wine Vault
Cheltenham Chronicle - Thursday 20 October 1814

See: Made-Wine

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