2017 law governing wine sales remains highly controversial

Photo: Marta Guzmán

Two years after a law aiming to clamp down on bootleg wine sales and low quality wines came into force it still sparks controversy among wine-growers and wine sellers. While the Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority claims the quality of wines sold on the market has significantly improved, small wine makers say it is putting them out of business.

Photo: Marta Guzmán
The 2017 legislation was aimed at bringing higher quality and greater transparency on the wine market. The network of small wine shops could no longer sell barrel wine on tap to clients who would bring their own bottles for the purpose. It stipulated that salespeople were obliged to report expected deliveries of barrel wine and give inspectors from the Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority time to perform tests of quality, before packaging and selling the product.

The Association of Wine Growers says the strict new conditions governing the sale of barrel wine has forced many smaller wine shop owners to close down, reducing the number of outlets for small wine growers who find it hard to sell to big retail stores and supermarket chains. The special wine shops that sell barrel wine are now having to bottle it or sell bag-in-box wines which meant making a significant investment. They claim that even so, the number of their clients has dropped. Jiří Maděřič from the Association of Wine Makers says the law has had a negative impact on small sales outlets.

“Some have closed down, others are now only selling bottled wine and the rest have invested in bag-in-box packaging devices and have become little more than wine-fillers. Paradoxically the law allows this – there is no distinction between who made the wine and who bottled it. If they package the wine, they can sell it as if it were their own.”

Local wine growers are also railing against the fact that imported wines bottled in the Czech Republic bear the Czech flag – which can be confusing for buyers. They argue that the law should clearly distinguish between wine producers and sellers, which is not presently the case.

Whether law-makers will respond to this demand is not clear. The authors of the law argue that the law is clearly having the desired effect since in the past few years the amount of poor quality wines has significantly dropped. In the years between 2013 and 2016, 35 to 43 percent of wine samples were found lacking, the number of inferior wines uncovered has now halved and inspectors say the old practice of diluting imported wines or lacing them with sugar has been significantly curbed. Moreover after the legislation came into force 7,000 new small wine sales outlets registered their businesses, for fear of the tough fines that could hit them.