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A comparative legal analysis of skin-contact wine definitions in Ontario and South Africa

Lorteau, Steve
Journal of wine research 2018 v.29 no.4 pp. 265-277
terminology, wines, Ontario, South Africa
While still a relatively niche product, skin-contact wines (commonly called ‘orange’, ‘skin-contact white’ or ‘amber’ wines) have re-emerged as a new global wine category. To our knowledge, only two jurisdictions have adopted regulatory criteria to define these wines. In 2015, South Africa amended its regulations and became the first wine region to legally define skin-contact wines as ‘Skin macerated white’ wines. In 2017, Ontario became the second when the Vintners Quality Alliance of Ontario (VQAO) officially recognised ‘Skin Fermented White’ wines as a distinct wine category. These terminological differences are, in many ways, indicative of two distinct approaches to wine regulation. In the case of South Africa, its definition of ‘Skin macerated white’ wine is closely associated to its larger goals of establishing itself as an eco-friendly and quality-focused wine region. In contrast, the VQAO’s definition shows a particular interest in establishing quality and labelling standards that maintain flexibility for experimentation. This work reviews South Africa’s and VQAO’s definitions and regulations of skin-contact wines using a comparative law approach. The current article also examines how these regulations may provoke style bifurcation and exacerbate the problem of diverse terminology to describe these wines.