1985 diethylene glycol wine scandal

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2022-06-23 10:30:07

The 1985 diethylene glycol wine scandal (German: Glykolwein-Skandal) was an incident in which several Austrian wineries illegally adulterated their wines using the toxic substance diethylene glycol (a minor ingredient in some brands of antifreeze) to make the wines appear sweeter and more full-bodied in the style of late harvest wines.[1] Many of these Austrian wines were exported to West Germany, some of them in bulk to be bottled at large-scale West German bottling facilities. At these facilities, some Austrian wines were illegally blended into German wines by the importers, resulting in diethylene glycol ending up in some bulk-bottled West German wines as well.[2]

The scandal was uncovered by wine laboratories performing quality controls on wines sold in West Germany, and immediately made headlines around the world. The affected wines were immediately withdrawn from the market. A number of people involved in the scandal were sentenced to prison or heavy fines in Austria and West Germany.

The short-term effect of the scandal was a complete collapse of Austrian wine exports and a total loss of reputation of the entire Austrian wine industry, with significant adverse effects on the reputation of German wines as well. The long-term effect was that the Austrian wine industry focused their production on other wine types than previously, primarily dry white wines instead of sweet wines, and increasingly targeted a higher market segment, but it took the Austrian wine industry over a decade to recover. Much stricter wine laws were also enacted by Austria.

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