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Wine & Spirits Law News Round-Up 2019

Apologies for the dearth – in fact the total absence – of news updates so far this year.  I’m afraid I fell into the trap of thinking that Brexit would be sorted out at any minute, so best to defer any news updates until then.  There have nevertheless been many legal and regulatory developments in the drinks world during 2019, so here’s a quick update on the more important and/or interesting ones.  (The irony being, of course, that Brexit still isn’t sorted out, even as I write …..)

To the UK trade’s great disappointment, in December 2018 it was announced that the Government’s guidance on low and no alcohol label descriptors would remain unchanged, there being no “compelling new evidence” of any need to change – see https://bit.ly/38dyw2r.

Tequila gains EU GI approval
In March 2019 Tequila was added to the EU register of approved geographical indications (GIs)
… as was Absinthe
in August, after a 15-year battle.

European Commission launches new database for GIs
From June the new eAmbrosia database has been the official register for EU spirits GIs (and for wine GIs too).

In June the trade association for EU spirit drinks producers, spiritsEUROPE, signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing the sector to providing energy information on labels, together with full ingredient listing and detailed product-specific information online – see https://bit.ly/38aZk3e.

Results after year one in Scotland
Despite Summer 2018 possibly distorting the results (the World Cup, a Royal Wedding, and unusually hot weather), data for the first year following the introduction of MUP in Scotland in April 2018 showed a move away from strong ciders to other categories, but an increase in overall sales.
A study published in the British Medical Journal in September found that sales of cut-price drinks such as strong cider and own brand vodka fell.  Overall consumption of alcohol fell slightly – by 1.2 units per person per week, equivalent to a measure of spirits or half a pint of beer.  The heaviest drinkers’ consumption fell by 2 units per week.  The study concluded that MUP was achieving its objectives.

Wales to follow suit in 2020
In November the National Assembly for Wales approved the introduction of MUP from 2 March 2020 at a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol, bringing Wales into line with Scotland.

Incoterms 2020 will come into effect on 1 January 2020.  The main changes are:

  • alignment of levels of insurance coverage in the CIF and CIP terms
  • changes Delivered at Terminal (DAT) to DPU (Delivery at Place Unloaded)
  • includes arrangements for carriage with own means of transport in FCA, DAP, DPU and DDP
  • includes security-related requirements within carriage obligations and costs.
Containerised goods
An issue highlighted in practice during the year was that the terms CIF, CFR and FOB may be inappropriate for containerised goods.  If the seller hands over the goods at a container terminal or warehouse, under the above terms they remain at the seller’s risk until on board the ship.  Also, once goods are in a container it can in practice be hard to tell when damage occurs.  One of the other terms (e.g. FCA or CIP), where risk passes on delivery into the custody of the first carrier, may be more appropriate.

I’m no better at gazing into the crystal ball on this subject than anyone else.  For what it’s worth, my guess is that current EU Directives and Regulations will continue to apply in the UK for some time to come: either because the UK enters an agreed transition period leading to final exit from the EU, or because it decides to remain in the EU.  In the event of a “no-deal Brexit”, UK domestic regulations in closely equivalent terms to the current EU provisions would come into effect.  So in any of these three possible scenarios, nothing is likely to change significantly in the short term.

Feel free to get in touch if there’s anything I may be able to help you with.

Andrew Park