Ministry seeks clampdown on bootleg wine sales

Photo: Kristýna Maková

The Ministry of Agriculture is preparing to strictly regulate the sale of barrel wine in the Czech Republic. The step forms part of its move curb the market in bootleg alcohol and spirits. The proposed amendment seeks a complete ban on barrel wine imported from abroad.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
The share of Czech producers on the country’s wine market is estimated at around 50 percent, and with the growing demand for wine, sales of both the bottled and barrel wines from countries such as Italy, Spain or Chile have been steadily growing.

According to estimates, up to 80 percent of barrel wine available now on the Czech market is imported. However, not all wines sold on the market are what they purport to be. Some companies are allegedly importing cheap, low-quality wine in barrels and presenting them afterwards as Czech or Moravian wines. There are also indications that the imported wines are often diluted and laced with sugar and colouring.

The new legislation would only allow the sale of barrel wine produced from grapes harvested in the Czech Republic and produced by local winemakers. In addition to that, winemakers would only be allowed to sell barrel wine themselves or in special wine shops, the so-called vinotékas.

Under the new proposal, the sale of barrel wine will also come under the strict supervision of the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority. The Ministry also plans to introduce higher penalties for breaching the law.

However, the ministry’s proposal has sparked fierce opposition from the country’s small winemakers, who argue it could be devastating for the majority of wine-shop owners. Small winemakers argue that the network of wine shops is the main outlet for their wines, since they don’t have a chance of selling their production through large supermarket chains.

There are an estimated 15,000 wine shops in the Czech Republic. Wine makers are warning that most of them would be forced to close down if the new legislation was put in force.

Spokesman for the agriculture ministry, Hynek Jordán, says the proposal is still being debated and nothing final has been approved yet. He told Mladá Fronta daily on Tuesday that the ministry was also considering different approaches, such as the Austrian model, which restricts the sale of barrel wines to wine cellars.