‘Absurd decision’: Italy slams Ireland’s plan to put health warnings on wine

Italian government ministers and wine producers have reacted furiously to a plan by Ireland to put stark health warnings on bottles of wine, calling it a “direct attack on Italy” as a major wine exporter.

'Absurd decision': Italy slams Ireland’s plan to put health warnings on wine
Italy is "the world's leading wine producer and exporter with more than €14 billion in turnover, with over half coming from abroad," said agricultural lobby Coldiretti. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

Italy’s government and wine producers’ associations have blasted a plan by Ireland to add labels to wines warning consumers about the health risks linked to alcohol, which can now go ahead after the European Commission failed to oppose it.

After submitting the plans in June 2022, Dublin received no objection from the commission during a six-month moratorium despite protests from Italy, Spain and six other EU countries.

Ireland plans to add labelling to wine carrying warnings of links between alcohol consumption and cancer, similar to those seen on cigarette packets, as well as on the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant.

Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani said the decision to slap health warnings on Italian wines was “absurd” and “does not take into account the difference between moderate consumption and alcohol abuse”.

Agriculture ministry undersecretary Luigi D’Eramo defended Italian wine as “history, culture… wine is part of the Mediterranean diet.”

“It’s about quality and responsible consumption,” he argued. “The health warning plan is a dangerous precedent which, if followed by other countries, risks damaging a leading part of our food and agriculture sector.”

The plan was slammed as a “direct attack on Italy” by Coldiretti, Italy’s main agricultural lobby, which said Italy “is the world’s leading producer and exporter with more than €14 billion in turnover, with over half coming from abroad”.

Italian wine producers’ groups also responded angrily to the plan, with Federvini president Micaela Pallini describing it as “discriminatory and disproportionate”.

Once the law is officially implemented by the Irish government, the alcohol industry will have three years to bring in the labelling.

The World Health Organization warns that “no level” of alcohol consumption is safe and that “any beverage containing alcohol, regardless of its price and quality, poses a risk of developing cancer”.

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La Bella Vita: Free Italian museum tickets, Sanremo, and real spaghetti carbonara

From seeing Italy's best sights for free to avoiding crimes against Italian food, new weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: Free Italian museum tickets, Sanremo, and real spaghetti carbonara

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

The cold weather and grey skies mean February is the month when I’m most tempted to stay at home and keep warm, preferably with an Italian hot chocolate. But it’s a shame to stay in when there’s so much to do and see in Italy, even at this time of year.

Carnival season officially kicks off this weekend, bringing much-needed colour and joy to towns and cities across Italy at what would otherwise be a pretty dull time of year. The most famous Carnival of all is of course in Venice, and this year’s edition promises a return to its former grand scale after three years of limited celebrations.

If you’re thinking of attending this year, here’s our quick guide to the events and what to expect:

Venice Carnival: What to expect if you’re attending in 2023

A masked reveller wearing a traditional carnival costume In St Mark's Square, Venice

The 2023 Venice Carnival will start with a floating parade down the Grand Canal on February 4th. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Another reason to get out and about this weekend is Domenica al Museo or ‘free museum Sundays’, when museums and other sites open their doors ticket-free on the first Sunday of every month.

As admission to major historical monuments and museums in Italy often costs upwards of €15 per person, there are big savings to be made and the free Sundays scheme is understandably popular among both tourists and residents.

Free entry applies to hundreds of state-run museums, archaeological parks and monuments, including world-famous sites like the Colosseum, Pompeii, Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, the Reggia di Caserta and Trieste’s Miramare Castle. See further details in our article:

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

There is however at least one good reason to stay in and watch some Italian TV: The Sanremo Music Festival returns on Tuesday, February 7th, and it will likely be the main topic of conversation all week.

If you’re a fan of Eurovision, you’re pretty much guaranteed to love it. But some people don’t find the appeal of the show immediately obvious, to put it mildly.

So what is it about the festival that pulls together an entire nation, regardless of whether they fall into the ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ camp? We looked at just why this 73-year-old song contest is such an Italian institution.

Why is the Sanremo music festival so important to Italians?

In the latest international Italian food controversy, Italian media reacted with anger and dismay this week to a recipe published in the New York Times for ‘tomato carbonara’, which recommended adding tomato sugo along with the eggs, and replacing pork cheek and pecorino with bacon and parmesan – an adaptation which was described as “provocative”, “disgusting”, and a “declaration of war”.

For anyone who doesn’t want to traumatise their Italian dinner guests or risk sparking a diplomatic incident, here’s the classic recipe plus a look at the rules to follow when making a real Roman-style carbonara:

The ten unbreakable rules for making real pasta carbonara

However, you might be surprised to hear that adding cream – or tomato – to your carbonara recipe isn’t actually the worst food crime you could commit according to Italians.

From fruity pizza toppings to spaghetti bolognese, an international study revealed which of the most common international ‘adaptations’ are seen as most and least offensive.

RANKED: The 11 worst food crimes you can commit according to Italians

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Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected]