Made wine tax “criminal” says urban mead producer

By James Beeson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Outraged producer: Gosnell is vocal in his criticism of the taxation of mead
Outraged producer: Gosnell is vocal in his criticism of the taxation of mead
The rates of taxation for products classified as made wines are “criminal”, according to the founder of London’s first urban meadery.

In an interview with The Morning Advertiser​, Tom Gosnell, founder of Gosnell’s Mead in Peckham, also called for a legal definition for mead based on honey content, and the introduction of a tax-cut similar to small breweries' relief for producers of made wines.

Responding to a question about how to grow the mead category in the UK on-trade, Gosnell said: “The pricing makes it difficult on tap, especially with the tax and the cost of the honey. Made wine tax is criminal compared to anything else.

“It would be good if there was some sort of small breweries' relief. I think that would help the made-wine industry and the likes of us. There's no reason that what we've seen in terms of the growth in beer couldn't happen in other categories as well.”

Gosnell’s calls echo those of urban cider maker Hawkes, whose Simon Wright earlier this year bemoaned​ the categorisation of any cider produced with adjuncts (fruit, hops, botanicals, etc) as made-wine, and called for a progressive relief system for small cider producers.

Legal definition required

Currently, any alcoholic drink of above 1.2% ABV that is not wine, beer, black beer, spirits or cider is classified as a made-wine for tax purposes. This also includes ciders made with the use of adjuncts such as fruit juice, botanicals or hops. Made-wine is taxed at a rate of £88.93 per hectolitre at an ABV of 4% or less, and £122.30 at an ABV of between 4% and 5.5%.

Mead is an alcoholic drink created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. However, the percentage of sugar fermented from honey varies from product to product.

Gosnell argued that a legal definition of how much of the sugar comes from honey was needed to avoid confusion for consumers.

“It would be good to have some legal definition of what mead is - ie, fermented from more than 50% honey,” he said. “It wouldn't affect me at all, because that is how we make it, but as the category grows it is going to get trickier and trickier if people are not working to a common definition.

“As a consumer you don't know what you are getting otherwise. You have to be honest with people. Consumers want to be educated and they want to know what is in the drink they are paying for.”

'Massive image problem'

The Peckham meadery founder admitted that mead had “a massive image problem” in the UK, and urged other producers to move away from using heritage to market their product.

“There's a lot of people that trade on heritage connotations as opposed to the quality of their product,” he said. “There's a massive image problem. You say mead and people think of Game of Thrones, Beowulf and all those kind of things, and that is useful/relevant for some brands but not for others like ours.

“We are trying to focus more on the product and emphasise the purity of it. It's just made from honey, water and yeast and it has a nice clean ferment, which makes it light, crisp and refreshing.”

On the subject of where he would like to see mead sit within the UK market, Gosnell added:

“We've come from sitting alongside the craft beer world, but it was never that much of a natural fit for us. In terms of how people interact with the product, a pint of mead is quite a lot. As a product it is quite delicate and light, and 250ml is the right serving size for us. We see it as a drink to share with friends. It's the sort of thing you can drink all afternoon without falling over.”

Related topics: Beer, Cider, Wine

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