What would Brexit mean for wine? Christine Austin investigates – and has a drinking game in mind.

Have you decided how you will vote on Thursday? Or maybe like me you applied for a postal vote and have puzzled over envelopes A and B and hoped you remembered to sign the form.
Either way there is bound to be a lot of debate and argument between now and the result sometime on Friday. Having listened carefully to opinions from either side, and been baffled and confused by both, I made my decision on how I think the result might affect my family and me. I expect most of the population will decide in just the same way, however, if you still are undecided then I urge you not to regard this article in any way as helping you make up your own mind. This is more of a survival guide for the next few days while we all ponder the future of the UK.
With wine and alcohol very much in mind, here are just a few of the issues that might affect us, depending on the result.

Whisky: According to the Scotch Whisky Association 90 per cent of all whisky is exported, much of it to the EU and it earns the country around £1bn in exports and provides around 40,000 jobs, many of them in rural areas. The Remain team suggest that tariffs may be imposed on exports if we leave the EU. Is this good or bad? We might lose the exports and the jobs, but at least we could drink the whisky ourselves. However if Scotland plans to re-join the EU, we might be left with no exports and no whisky.

English Wine: In the 40 years since we joined the Common Market, English vineyards have expanded rapidly. There are now 500 vineyards in the UK and we make around 5 million bottles of wine, much of which we export. There is nothing more satisfying than watching a Frenchman drink a glass of English Sparkling Wine, especially when he thinks it is Champagne, and after just a few sips you tell him it comes from Sussex. As the industry has grown, a framework of EU legislation has developed around English wines, protecting its identity and its quality status. Because of that legislation English wines can only come from English grapes and the wine must conform to certain quality standards. The result is that English wine has a passport of paperwork that allows it to be exported easily across the EU. Once again, if we leave the EU, will there be tariffs against English wines? If that happens will Canada and Australia be happy to buy it, or will we have to drink it all ourselves?
One of the key benefits of the growing English wine scene is that the UK now has an internationally recognised winemaking course at Plumpton College, part of the University of Brighton. Graduates find jobs at companies and wine properties around the world, especially within the EU. Will this continue if we leave?

Imports: At present all wines from across the EU can freely enter the UK market, although much of the EU regards the UK as a disaster area for trade. We negotiate too hard and expect the vignerons of Italy, Spain and France to be grateful to be allowed to sell their wines to us. In turn, they would much rather export to Switzerland and Canada where the residents are happy to pay over the odds for wine but those countries don’t actually buy as much as we do, mainly because it is so expensive.
So the EU producers from Sancerre to Sicily shave their margins and their prices and, before the Chancellor adds on his taxes, we get some of the most competitively priced wines in the world. How that would change if we left the EU is unknown.
It could be classed as a “leap in the dark”, which brings me to the Referendum Games outlined below.
Aim of the game
To take some of the boredom out of the increasingly noisy debates about the EU.
Rules: You need at least two people to play and frankly, the more the merrier.
What you need to play: Any EU debate on radio or TV, sadly with the volume on so you can hear what they are saying.
A range of glasses and beverages including whisky (Lidl’s Gold medal winning Orchy 5 Year Blended Scotch Whisky at £13.29 is best value), English Sparkling Wine (try Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010, £27.54 available from Yorkshire Vintners) and a selection of wines from the EU and from the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. To be perfectly fair someone should remain sober to judge the winner.
How to play: Listen to the debate, and score points for the various phases used. Here are some suggestions: £350 million, control of our borders, Brexit, our NHS, leap in the dark. Personal comments about Boris score double.
Each phrase counts towards a drink, with whisky, English wine, EU wine or Commonwealth wine selected depending on the mood of the debate. The end of the game is when someone mentions World War 3 or it is decided that watching Euro 2016 is a better prospect.

About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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