European wine producers ‘could give up on UK market’

The government is being urged to scrap plans to impose costly VI-1 import forms on all EU wines arriving in the UK from next year.

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association says European producers will face €300 to €400 of extra costs for every wine they export to the UK.

It argues that the forms have little meaning or relevance and are essentially “a barrier to trade”.

VI-1 forms represent “a huge burden” for producers and importers alike

The requirement to use VI-1 forms will hit independents disproportionately hard, especially as specialist merchants typically over-index in European wines.

Speaking at a webinar for independent merchants, organised in partnership with The Wine Merchant, WSTA policy director Simon Stannard described the VI-1 system as “quite burdensome”.

He explained: “An exporter is required to undertake a suite of tests that accompany that shipment. We think those tests will cost around €300 or €400 a go, and we think there would be upwards of about a quarter of a million movements of these documents for goods coming from the EU to the UK.

“So it’s a huge burden on the exporters, but of course that burden simply passes on to the importer and any costs pass on to the consumer.”

He added: “These are not particularly useful forms. I think any wine producer from outside the EU will argue that these are a technical barrier to trade.

“Knowing the three types of acidity in a wine, two types of alcoholic content, the sulphite level, and having a lab test to confirm those details is not particularly helpful. It doesn’t particularly help traceability, but it does cost, and it does add bureaucracy.

Specialist independents typically over-index in European wines

“We’re quite worried that with the introduction of these rules, many small producers in mainland Europe will simply no longer want to send their goods to the UK.

“For those independent merchants for whom part of their USP is to get interesting stock from small producers, there’s a genuine risk that the supply might run out because they simply won’t want to spend €400 and go through the necessary hoop-jumping.

“It’s a real issue and one that people should be genuinely concerned about.”

The Wine Merchant’s reader survey this year found that France, Italy and Spain are independents’ most important countries of origin.

The same survey found that just over 18% of wine in the independent trade is imported direct from producers, with 44% of respondents expecting that figure to increase in the coming year.

The WSTA is hoping to recruit more independent members as it ramps up efforts to fight the trade’s corner over issues such as import documentation, labelling and tariffs that will come into effect from January, at the end of the Brexit transition period.