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Sparkling wine tax

Germany is the last country in the EU where a sparkling wine or sparkling wine tax must be paid (status 2009). It was introduced in 1902 by Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) to finance the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal (since 1948 the Kiel Canal) and the imperial war fleet. At that time, their amount was 50 Pfennig per bottle. The effect was worthwhile, because in 1905 11 million bottles of German sparkling wine were taxed. Although the tax was abolished in 1933 as a measure to overcome the economic crisis, it was reintroduced in 1939 in the form of a war surcharge, especially for the development of the submarine fleet. It provoked the production of cheapest sparkling wines. The text of the law in official German reads as follows: In summary, these are sparkling wines in bottles with a sparkling wine stopper fixed by a special holding device, or which, at plus 20 °Celsius, have an excess pressure of 3 bar or more due to dissolved carbon dioxide and are to be classified under heading 2204, 2205 or 2206 of the Customs Tariff, depending on their alcohol content and composition. The alcoholic strength by volume must be at least 1,2 % and not more than 15 %.

It is therefore not advisable to seal a sparkling wine with a champagne cork secured by an agraffe (wire basket), as the sparkling wine tax is then due regardless of the excess pressure of carbon dioxide. Besides sparkling wines (sparkling wine, champagne), a similar excise tax also applies to so-called intermediate products such as Madeira, port and sherry. A 0.75 l bottle of sparkling wine is taxed at € 0.38 if it contains less than 6% alcohol by volume and at € 1.02 if it contains more than 6% alcohol by volume. The revenue from sparkling wine tax in Germany is around € 450 million per year, which makes the Finance Minister's desire understandable.

In Austria, this tax was discontinued on 1 April 2005, its last rate per litre being € 1.44. This was done for economic reasons, as sales of sparkling wine had fallen by up to 10% a year and the proportion of tax-free frizzante from abroad had increased. Under protest of the producers, who see this as "discrimination of a product", the tax was reactivated from March 2014 at € 1.00 per bottle. Finally, the tax, which had been imposed due to the Corona pandemic in 2010, was finally (?) stopped. In Austria, almost 100% of the basic wines come from the country itself. In Germany, however, up to 80% of the base wines are imported, mainly from Italy.

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