The future is vines

The UK’s vineyard sector is growing fast and for those thinking of setting up a vineyard business there are a number of legal considerations to take into account.

Finding a suitable location

Unfortunately, you can’t plant a vineyard on any piece of agricultural land. If it is in a protected location such as a National Park then you may need to consult with the National Parks Authority.  Also, sites which have not been cultivated are protected by Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations and permission might be needed from Natural England.  If you are buying or leasing land for a new vineyard it is important to fully understand if there might be any restrictions on its use before you commit to it.

Vineyard registration

All vineyards over ¼ of an acre must be registered with the Food Standards Agency and owners must register their vines within 6 months of planting them.  They must also notify them of any changes to them.

Plant and crop protection

If you plan to carry out any spraying you need to hold a certificate of competence to apply Plant Protection Products with a sprayer and also undertake training and pass the relevant Pesticide Application exams.  It is important to keep up to date with which chemicals are approved for application in UK vineyards.

Registration and licencing

Aside from registering with the Food Standards Agency, wineries must also register with their local authority.  If you plan to import, export or sell wholesale wines, you must register with your local regional wine standards inspector to receive a Wine Standards Board number.

Wine producers’ licence

If you are going to make wine for sale, you must have an excise licence (wine producers’ licence) and you may also be liable to make alcohol duty payments.

Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme

All alcohol wholesalers must register with HM Revenue & Customs before they supply any alcohol.  It is also illegal to buy alcohol from a non-registered wholesaler.

Alcohol licences

Alcohol licences are not needed for the wholesale of wine to other licenced premises or wine traders, however if selling to the final customer, you must hold a Personal Licence issued by your local authority and the wine must be delivered from licenced premises.

Online and mail order sales

To sell wine online or by mail order you must also comply with The Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002 and distance selling guidelines, details of both can be obtained from your Local Authority Trading Standards team.

Wine production

Whether you are making wine at your vineyard or using a contract winemaker, wine testing is important and whoever is doing it should be UKAS approved or equivalent.  Every January, wine producers should submit Production Declaration (WSB21 or WSB21b) forms for wine and other grape products made from the previous year’s harvest.

Wine classification and labelling

Wine will be classified as either: Wine, Varietal Wine, Wine with a Protected Geographical indication or Wine with a Protected Designation of Origin.  Depending on which classification it is will determine the labelling restrictions and requirements, including allergen labelling requirements.  Further details are available from the Food Standards Agency regional wine inspector.

Sarah Astley can be contacted at