James McMillan: Whose vine is it anyway?

With Scotland's Food & Drink Fortnight kicking off on Saturday, the industry will again gather to celebrate and focus on the quality of Scottish produce '“ including Scottish wine.

Could Scotland become home to a wine-producing region to rival Bordeaux or Burgundy? Picture: Christophe Ena/AP
Could Scotland become home to a wine-producing region to rival Bordeaux or Burgundy? Picture: Christophe Ena/AP

Chateau Largo in Fife is the brainwave of Christopher Trotter, who planted vines over four years ago – creating Scotland’s first commercial winery.

The winery is made using the Solaris and Siegerrebe grapes. Whilst the early vintages do not appear to have been a great success, Trotter is an ex-chef and food writer determined to ensure the wine reaches it potential. If other wine lovers wish to follow suit and plant vines in Scotland, what are the legal requirements?

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The Wine Regulations 2011 make it an offence to:

breach the protection of protected designations and protected geographical indications by practice “liable to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product”;

fail to comply with the provision of the EU regulations at any time after having received a warning notice;

make use of a protected name (for example “Champagne”) by marketing comparable products that do not comply with the product specification or which exploit the reputation of a designation of origin;

produce and market wine other than in accordance with the procedures set out at annex XVa to EC regulation 20071234, which govern acidification, enrichment and de-acidification. Notably the UK is one of the countries where it is expressly permitted to add sugar to wine to make it stronger; and

fail to record acidification, sweetening, bottling, distillation, etc of wine in the registers that producers must keep.

There is no hiding behind the corporate veil. Any director, manager or “the person who has consented, connived or been neglectful” can be guilty of the above-mentioned offences. On summary conviction the penalty is a fine of up £10,000 and an unlimited fine upon conviction at indictment level.

Producers in Scotland wishing to create a new winery must tell the Food Standards Agency (FSA) the identity of the grower; the location of the vineyard parcel(s); the acreage of the vineyard parcel(s); and the characteristics of the vines planted there.

The Wine Regulations 2011 are fairly straightforward, but the underlying regulations applicable outlining protected designations and protected geographical indications run to several hundred pages.

Farmers and landowners that decide to diversify by producing wine should be mindful of the regulations. FSA officers have powers to enter premises at any reasonable time, inspect and access records to enforce the 2011 regulations. Officers may also issue enforcement and prohibition notices prohibiting the movement, marketing or export of a wine product.

Whether global warming increases the potential for a viable Scottish wine-producing region as good as Bordeaux and Burgundy certainly remains to be seen. In vino veritas.

• James McMillan is an associate in corporate defence at law firm MacRoberts