Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

High Court to rule on 'wine' row

Sovio is a Chilean distilled wine with part of its alcohol content removed

A winemaker is going to the High Court in a bid to overturn a ban by the food watchdog stopping it from describing its low-alcohol drink as wine.

In 2007, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) stopped the selling of Sovio which was marketed as "a naturally light semi-sparkling wine".

It is now described as a "wine-based drink" and stocked in 50 UK stores but the company wants it to be called wine.

Hampshire-based Sovio Wines will hear its case on 9 February.

The FSA also said the company used an "unauthorised technique" to lower the alcohol content of the drink to 8%, which broke EU laws.

'Kill product'

But the drink has been stocked at 50 Waitrose stores since May 2008 after the company decided to source it from California, not from Spain, in a move which bypassed EU regulations.

Under EU law it can be made in France and Spain, but its export is illegal.

Tony Dann, chairman of Sovio Wines, said: "It's crazy that this product, which is pure undiluted premium wine and combines total integrity of flavour with much lower alcohol content, is somehow illegal.

"The government is urging the drinks industry to provide a wider range of lower alcohol products, consumers want to drink them, and yet the FSA is seemingly trying to kill a product that everyone wants."

Sovio is a Chilean distilled wine which is shipped to California where the alcohol content is removed.

The liquid is spun at high speeds until the alcohol separates, a small amount of which is then returned to the drink.

It is then shipped to the UK for bottling and sale.

A glass of Sovio has about half the alcohol content of normal wine, and had been on sale in pubs and for general sale by the bottle.

The FSA said it did not meet the criteria of a wine product.

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