Australia has well-defined rules regarding the addition of water to grape juice and must. The relevant section of the Food Standards Code (Standard 4.5.1) reads as follows:
Water may only be added to wine, sparkling wine and fortified wine to facilitate fermentation if the water is added to dilute the high sugar grape must prior to fermentation and does not dilute the must below 13.5 degrees Bé.
Wine Australia is often asked how to record such additions and another common question concerns the timing of any water addition. As you can see, the Code states the addition should be ‘prior to fermentation’ and this could be read strictly to mean there could be absolutely no alcohol in the must at the time of water addition. Fermentation can start, however, in the grape bin before it even arrives at the winery, so this would be a pedantic interpretation and not in keeping with the intention of this clause. Wine Australia’s view, therefore, is that water can be added to the must provided the Baumé of the must is no lower than 13.5 degrees at the time of addition.
Hence we require two items to be recorded in order to ensure compliance with the Food Standards Code:
- the identity of each product treated with extraneous water at the must stage, and
- the Baumé of the must at the time the water is added.
We do not need an indication of how much water has been added.
There is no similar restriction on the timing of low-sugar juice (LSJ) additions during the winemaking process.
Keep in mind, however, that LSJ addition should be treated as a blending operation, not an addition. This is because the legitimacy of LSJ use is determined by the definition of wine:
wine means the product of the complete or partial fermentation of fresh grapes, or a mixture of that product and products derived solely from grapes.
So, for example, if a product had 16 per cent LSJ from Shiraz blended into 84 per cent Cabernet wine, the result would no longer be entitled to a single variety claim. It could be described as a Cabernet Shiraz (or a non-varietal wine).
Alternatively, adding extraneous water to Shiraz, for example, would not dilute its credentials as a Shiraz. The restriction is not on the added volume, but on the timing of the addition (i.e. to must >13.5° Baumé).