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English Wine Week

If someone had suggested 20 years ago, that English Wine would be celebrated – you may well have thought they’d had one too many. However, English Wine Week has arrived and there’s a lot to celebrate!

The English and Welsh Wine industry has steadily been growing in both size and reputation. There are over 470 vineyards and 135 wineries in England and Wales producing both sparkling and still wines. In 2013, around 1,880 hectares of land were devoted to the growing of vines (the equivalent of 2,645 full size football pitches) producing 4.5 million bottles of wine (enough to fill the London Aquarium 3 times).

The UK wine industry is now recognised as a premium wine-producing region. English Sparkling Wines won three trophies and 14 Gold awards at the 2015 International Wine Awards.

Furthermore, a number of English and Welsh wines now boast EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographic Indication (PDI) status. These labels indicate that the product possess certain qualities or enjoys a certain reputation due to its geographical origin, such as Melton Mowbray pork pies. Wines carrying these special labels have passed certain taste and analytical parameters. The producers must also prove the geographical origins of the grapes. PDO wines comply with more stringent rules on the origin of their grapes than PGI wines.

English Wine Week runs between 23rd May and 31st May 2015. The English Wine Producers are organising a whole host of events to celebrate everything about English Wine. For more information and to join in the celebrations, see here!

Image courtesy of English Wine Producers.

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Certainly, Would You Like Arsenic With That?

In a class action lawsuit, filed in the USA on Thursday, 28 wineries producing 83 wines have been accused of producing wines containing high levels of arsenic. The lawsuit alleges that the wines contain up to five times the levels of arsenic than the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows for water. The varieties listed include bottles from prominent brands and all retail for less than $10 per bottle.

The ensuing pandemonium in the media has so far not addressed the most important question: how much arsenic is safe?

Arsenic is a metal that occurs naturally in the air, soil and water in small amounts. Very small amounts can occur in wine, other beverages, fruit and so on. Larger amounts of arsenic can definitely be problematic. Arsenic is carcinogenic and has been linked to causing cardiovascular disease and respiratory illness.

As far as arsenic in wine is concerned, the U.S. doesn’t have specific rules about acceptable arsenic levels for wine, but many other countries do. For example, in Canada wines are allowed to have arsenic levels up to 100 parts per billion.

The tests performed by BeverageGrades, the lab whose research has been cited in the lawsuit, found that some wines had an arsenic content of 40-50 parts per billion. In the US drinking water may contain a maximum concentration of inorganic arsenic of 10 parts per billion. In the EU the total amount of arsenic permissible is 10 parts per billion.

In the lawsuit, four plaintiffs are said to be bringing the suit on behalf of California consumers. The plaintiffs are seeking a recall on all the wines with high arsenic levels, money back to the consumers who purchased these wines and wish to shed light on what they allege is a minimally regulated US wine industry.

The lawsuit is set to be defended with a number of producers already issuing press releases denying the allegations. Further, the Wine Institute of California has responded stating that the lawsuit was irresponsible and that the allegations were misleading and false.

As far as the lawsuit is concerned, and the question of how much arsenic is safe, we’ll just have to await the decision at trial.

Image is “Arsenic trioxide“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Italian Sparkling Wine On Tap, Is It Prosecco?

Prosecco, the Italian cousin to France’s champagne, has quickly been gaining in popularity in the UK, but are you enjoying the real thing? Not if your prosecco is served on tap apparently.

Last year global sales of Prosecco overtook Champagne for the first time. In the UK, Prosecco achieved a 74.6% uplift in sales in the year to 20th July 2014 according to Kantar Worldpanel. There was similar staggering double-digit growth in 2013 with an increase in sales of £70 million.

Such is the staggering popularity of this sparkling gem that many eateries and pubs in the UK have started to sell it on tap. The advantage being a super sparkly glass of fizz without having to order a full bottle. However, according to EU Regulations, Prosecco must be produced in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene area of north-east Italy (just as champagne must come from the Champagne region of France) and must be marketed exclusively in traditional glass bottles. So if it arrives on tap, it is not Prosecco.

The trend of pubs selling Prosecco from barrels so alarmed Italian producers that they contacted the Food Standards Agency asking them to stop the sale of prosecco on tap. The Food Standards Agency has confirmed that it is not an acceptable practice to sell prosecco in this way. As such, it is perfectly permissible to serve Italian sparkling wine on tap, but it cannot be called Prosecco.

So if you simply want a glass of Italian sparkling wine, by all means order from the tap, but if you want the real thing, buy a bottle!

Image is “Prosecco vineyards” by John W. Schulze is licensed under CC BY 2.0