The European Court of Justice has ruled (May 17th 2000) that restrictions imposed by Spain on the bottling of Rioja wine may be allowed, even though they constitute an impediment to the free movement of goods within the EU.The Court found in favour of Spain, following marathon proceedings brought by Belgium (which was backed by the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland).Belgium said that rules specifying that Rioja had to be bottled only in authorised cellars in the region of production were illegal under EU free trade rules.The Court decided however that “the risk to which the quality of the product finally offered to consumers was exposed was greater where it had been carried and bottled outside the region of production than when those operations had taken place within the region.” Thus the Spanish rules “are justified as a measure protecting the controlled designation of origin.”ALAN OSBORN

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