Europe is famous for our wonderful wine and for our rich wineries. The sweetness and the good quality are main characters of our wine-culture. But is our wine really “sweet” or is it “sweetened”?
Anyone who wants to sell an officially certified quality Riesling is not allowed to sweeten the produced wine with sugar. According to the BVerwG, this also applies if the sugar should actually have fermented into alcohol.
Sweetening a wine product in the fermentation phase may only serve to increase the alcohol content and may not lead to a circumvention of the ban on sweetening the wine with sugar (sucrose). This was decided by the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) in Leipzig in 2020 (judgement of 30.01.2020, ref. 3 C 6.18).
The plaintiff, owner of a winery, had received an official examination number for quality wine for his Riesling wine from the 2014 vintage. However, during an examination, it turned out that the wine had too high a sugar content. The winemaker’s explanation: the sugar added during enrichment had apparently not fermented completely. The Chamber of Agriculture of Rhineland-Palatinate then withdrew the inspection notice. The addition of sucrose in the course of enrichment caused an impermissible sweetening.
According to the Rhineland-Palatinate Higher Administrative Court (Oberverwaltungsgericht, OVG), the residual sweetness in the wine could only come from fresh grapes and grape must, but not from added sucrose. According to the OVG, the assumption of the plaintiff winemaker that any addition of sugar that takes place during the fermentation phase according to the legal provisions must also be harmless with regard to the residual sugar content remaining in the wine is not correct. The crystal sugar added by the plaintiff winemaker in March for enrichment was only 10 per cent fermented. This was an inadmissible sweetening.
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