spiritsNEWS December 2021

Spirit Drinks Labelling Guidelines – Finally (almost) there!

As most spiritsNEWs readers may remember, the negotiations on the new Spirit Drinks Regulation proved particularly lengthy and complex. As a fact, Regulation (EU) 2019/787 was published on 17 May 2019, almost two and half years after the Commission had submitted its proposal to the Council and the European Parliament in December 2016.

During those negotiations, the co-legislators took the occasion to re-examine and reformulate many fundamental rules of the spirit drinks legislation, notably as concerns those peculiar concepts so specific to the labelling of spirit drinks such as ‘compound terms’, ‘allusions’ and ‘mixtures’. In fact, it became soon clear that widespread uncertainty reigned as to how to implement those provisions and it took much discussion to agree on a shared understanding.

This is the reason why at that time the Council asked the Commission to produce Guidelines providing a harmonised reading to assist both national authorities and food business operators to navigate more easily in that sea of unique rules and, most importantly, to ensure their uniform implementation throughout of the Single Market for the sake of its integrity.

So, after another set of intensive discussions that lasted two and half more years and brought about 4 delegated regulations clarifying some of the very labelling provisions it meant to explain, we are now so far: the text of the Guidelines is now stable, is translated in all EU languages and will soon be published as Commission Notice in the Official Journal of the European Union.

That document provides practical explanations on labelling provisions applicable to spirit drinks and dispenses several non-exhaustive examples as well as recommendations of good practices. 

Although not legally binding – only the Court of Justice of the European Union is competent to authoritatively interpret Union law – this document is particularly meaningful also because it is the first time that the Commission finalises written guidelines on such a sensitive topic.

I am very grateful to all those who contributed constructively to draft the text also because all those endless discussions and exchanges with national administrations and representatives of the industry provided a precious occasion to examine in depth the rules in place, which allowed identifying areas where more clarification was deemed necessary.

This was the case concerning the labelling rules applicable to blends as opposed to mixtures[1]; the fact that the legal name of spirit drinks should always appear in the same legal field of compound terms and allusions[2]; and that operators should be allowed to make allusion also to the name of a spirit drink used as sole alcoholic base to produce another spirit drink category or having been matured/finished in a wooden cask subsequently used to mature another, different spirit drink[3].

With all this good work achieved in 2021, we can now toast to a prolific and successful New Year. A votre santé! Cheers! Cin cin! Prost! Salud!


Chiara Imperio, Senior Expert & Coordinator Spirit Drinks, European Commission - DG AGRI


[1]              Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/1096 of 21 April 2021

[2]              Commission Delegated Regulations (EU) 2021/1334 and 1335 of 27 May 2021

[3]              Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/1465 of 6 July 2021

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