The case we report elsewhere in this issue, in which a beverage described as “flavoured and coloured cider,” was sold to the public as “British Wine” at more than double the price of the genuine product, raises issues of importance not only to the general public, but also to producers and public authorities concerned with the administration of the Food and Drugs Act and other measures protecting the interests of the consumer. What standards of quality can the public reasonably demand from the supplier of British Wines? Owing to the great variety of wines produced and the multiplicity of processes involved, it has not been found practicable in any part of the world to devise a universally acceptable definition of wine, but clearly the primary condition which entitles a beverage to this description is that it should be produced with the product of the vine as a basis, at least in the case of those varieties which are marketed under foreign appellations. The consumer may also reasonably expect, and the conscientious wine merchant ordinarily takes care to provide, a wine which has keeping qualities, such as can be guaranteed only in a beverage which contains enough alcohol to preserve it. The descriptions “Port Type” or “Sherry Type” which commonly appear on British Wine labels entitle the purchaser to expect a beverage as nearly approaching the quality and characteristics of the imported variety as the Customs and Excise Regulations permit. Imported Sherries or Ports, thanks to the right granted to producers to fortify them, normally contain some 20 per cent. of Ethyl Alcohol, or 35/36 degrees of proof spirit. This right of fortification is denied to British Wines, which, therefore, must contain a lesser degree of alcohol obtained by natural fermentation. The purchaser, nevertheless, expects a beverage of the same keeping qualities as the imported variety. It is true that other wines keep in bottle at much lower strengths, but table wines of this character are usually consumed the same day as they are opened, and are not, like Ports and Sherries and their substitutes, kept for days or weeks in the cupbdard or on the sideboard. In our opinion, such keeping qualities cannot be achieved by British Wine makers with less than 16½ per cent. of alcohol, or 28/29 degrees of proof spirit, with a corresponding content in sweetness which materially helps to preserve the wine. In the drier types a still higher degree of strength is necessary. While it is true that the foreign and colonial class of N.E.25 and N.E.27 proof spirit are imported into this country, these wines are greatly helped by their high degree of sweetness which the British Wine producer can only reach, under existing regulations, at the expense of the alcohol necessary to ensure the keeping qualities demanded by his customers. In any regulations framed to protect the consumer, the above considerations, which are based on experience and traditional practice, must be constantly borne in mind.
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