Hans Eichele from Rohwedder and partner tells us how he put down his roots in wine law. He clarifies, that most of his work is done from his desk and not during wine tasting, and points out that his clients are a nice group of down to earth people.
Are you an expert on wine? What is your private connection to wine?
Neither did I grow up in a winery nor did I plan to become a wine lawyer. This specialisation was a lucky chance. My current understanding and knowledge of wine grew whilst working in this field. When I started wine law covered about 25 % of my work. Today 85-90% of my work is wine related. We provide comprehensive help to different players in the wine industry: from small family business in the area, over wine bottling companies, to wine mergers from abroad.
If not wine law, what would have been your second choice?
At first I started in commercial law and wrote my dissertation in this field. During my studies I had attended a lecture on wine law, that was held by a retired judge, who had written a law commentary on wine law. However, at that time I did not expect to ultimately end up working in this field.
What has changed compared to when you started? Has it become more regulated or stricter?
It has not necessarily become stricter. 20 years ago the sector was very much defined by agriculture law. It was highly regulated by EU law, there were attractive subsidies, but at the same time there were a lot of restrictions. Labeling, for instance, was very strict and has become more liberal in the last 10 to 15 years. Today the mandatory information is very limited. But there is more tolerance for additional information. All the same, you hardly ever find a nutrition declaration on a wine bottle. What is more, health claims are highly restricted. As a result the promotion of special characteristics, such as histamine free, is difficult.
Can you give us an insight into the differences between European and foreign regulations?
Regulations in Europe definitely differ from those in the US. Certain things are more liberal in the US while sales are more restricted. Overall, the approaches to wine production are different: in Europe traditional production methods are preserved and applied. Wine producing countries, such as Spain, Italy or France, maintain the original product and protected designation of origin. In the US wine is produced according to the customer´s demands and therefore more inventive. All the same the greater variety of wine is certainly created in Europe.
Can you tell us about current developments in Europe?
Right now there are interesting developments and discussions regarding trade marks and protected designation of origin. In Germany wine makers are effectively competing with the prosecco organisation in Italy with their sparkling and semi- sparkling drinks that are called “secco”.
Do you travel a lot and are you attending many wine tastings?
But most of the work is done from the office desk. Now and then I attend wine tastings, especially with smaller vineyards in the area, and new clients. Certainly, Christmas time is special because of the received wine presents. Since the product is unique every year there is always something new to taste. What is more, wine producers are usually down to earth because they are working in the field. It is a great group of clients indeed.
As Charles Kingley said ― "Better is old wine than new, and old friends like-wise."