Wine selling ban makes for sour grapes

Roger Pearson reports on how two Shropshire wine makers are battling against measures to stop them selling their product

The question of whether wine making is an industrial or agricultural activity is at the centre of a High Court battle, with major implications for the growing number of wine producers in the UK.

The case will bring wine makers into conflict with the Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, John Prescott, who has taken the view that wine making is to be classified as an industrial activity.

It was under these circumstances that Prescott upheld an enforcement notice served on David and Christine Millington of Wroxeter Roman Vineyard near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, on the basis that they need planning consent if they intend to sell wine they produce at Glebe Farm, Wroxeter.

However, if the Millingtons' wine making is viewed as agricultural rather than industrial, then such consent will not be needed.

The enforcement notice, issued by Atcham Borough Council, required the Millingtons to stop selling wine and light refreshments and to stop allowing their premises to be visited by coachloads of wine tasters and other members of the public.

The Millingtons' activities have been at the centre of a hard fought campaign by local residents, who claim that commercial activities at the vineyard have shattered their peace and created problems with local traffic.

The order does not prevent the Millingtons producing wine, merely selling it on site.

However, they argue that under EU law the enforcement notice amounts to an unlawful restriction on trade, and they have now been given leave by Deputy High Judge George Bartlett QC to appeal against the view taken by Prescott.

Solicitor for the Millingtons is Niall Blackie of Telford-based firm Manby & Steward.

After the Millingtons were granted leave to continue with their High Court challenge he said: "The restrictions on selling wine from the site and allowing visitors to be shown around the vineyard was said by the inquiry inspector to strike at the heart of the business. That is an indication of how serious it is.

"The case is also of significance for wine making in this country, which is a growing agricultural activity. It is also important for similar activities such as cider making."