Sparkling wine bottles without capsules?

VDP vintner from the Saar defends himself against German wine control and EU regulation.

According to EU regulations, sparkling wine bottles may only be marketed in encapsulated form / Credit: bbe Fotodesign
According to EU regulations, sparkling wine bottles may only be marketed in encapsulated form / Credit: bbe Fotodesign

Vintner Florian Lauer from the Peter Lauer Winery in Ayl an der Saar, Germany, has gone to the Administrative Court. Lauer does not put capsules around his sparkling wine bottles. The wine inspectorate sees this as a violation of current EU law.
When asked by Meininger's, Lauer describes the complaint as an "administrative act that does not exist". After all, according to Lauer, there is no justification in the legal basis that explains the obligation to encapsulate.

According to EU law, sparkling wine bottles must be covered with a foil capsule, according to the wine controller's point of view. In Lauer's view, however, the capsules serve no purpose whatsoever and are nothing more than unnecessary waste and therefore harmful to the environment. "There is no reason for the capsule in the law," Lauer comments on the situation.

Lauer's enquiries with the responsible state and federal ministries also failed to yield any valid justification for the regulation. Arguments were based on safety concerns and the prevention of  counterfeit products. It was only after the EU had given a "very nebulous" answer to Lauer's concerns that the Saar winegrower finally decided to go to the administrative court.

"It drove us up the wall that the legislator is not in a position to explain his own law", is how Lauer justifies his move. The trial began on 5 July. In two to three weeks, he said, he expects a verdict, or, as Lauer would prefer, the case to be passed on to the next higher judicial instance, all the way to the European Court of Justice. His feeling is that the court considers the case to be difficult.

It is true that the opposing party, the Supervisory and Service Directorate (ADD) of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, also cites the "traditional and protectable impression" of encapsulated sparkling wine bottles as an argument. However, this is a disproportionate reason not only to neglect the interests of environmental protection, but to penalise them. The ADD's reasoning that the lack of a capsule would stir up safety risks "was also something the court did not want to hear", Lauer comments on the first day of the trial.

In the run-up, the vintner also sought talks with the German sparkling wine association. After all, environmental interests also apply to large producers. However, the push remained without further reaction. sw

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