Italians Decry Irish Wine Move

The Italian foreign minister has decried Irish plans to place cancer warnings on wine bottles as an "attack" on his country’s identity and heritage, escalating a row over health labelling to a full diplomatic spat.

The row stems from the Government’s plans to introduce warning labels on alcohol that will break new ground in labelling by mentioning a link between drinking alcohol and cancer.

The plan has provoked a storm of protest in Italy, a major wine producer, where industry groups have condemned it as a dangerous precedent to set within the European Union due to fears of the impact on its exports.

"There is an attack on the Mediterranean diet, which is a fundamental part of our economy," Italy’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Antonio Tajani, told journalists in Brussels. Mr Tajani said that he had met Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the foreign affairs council on Monday and had raised Italy’s objections to the labelling plan.

"I explained to him how dangerous the message is that comes from Dublin," said Mr Tajani, who is a long-serving senior politician from the Forza Italia party and part of the government of prime minister Giorgia Meloni.

"I also reiterated that a glass of red wine, all the doctors say it is also good for the heart, so it is doubtful that it can also be bad for you.

"I believe the Commission should intervene and bring the rules of a country back in line with the rules of the single market," he said.

Mr Martin had been “open” to discussing the issue, and talks would be set up between the Italian ministers of health and agriculture with their Irish counterparts, Mr Tajani said.

The row blew up after a deadline for the European Commission to object to Ireland’s labelling plans passed recently without the EU central body lodging any complaint, despite the protests of major wine-producing EU member states.