UCI discriminates against Aussie wines?

Sailing close to the wind

With the World Championships starting in Geelong, no doubt plenty of business is being done over bottles of fine Australian wine. Only there’s a little-known UCI rule on the desirability of sponsors that could block Australians from backing the sport. Here’s the relevant rule:

1.2.030 bis Sponsoring
Without prejudice of the applicable law, no brand of tobacco, spirits, pornographic bis products or any other products that might damage the image of the UCI or the sport of cycling in general shall be associated directly or indirectly with a licenceholder, a UCI team or a national or international cycling competition. As defined in the present article, a spirit is a beverage with a content in alcohol of 15% or more.

At first glance it seems to say wine and beer companies can sponsor the sport but not spirits. Only 15% is low threshold for the definition of spirits. These days some wines can have an alcohol content of 15% or more. In particular it is not uncommon for Australian wines to have an alcohol content just above this threshold. It’s not just Aussies, Californian and South African wines can be similar. Indeed there are also one or two old world French producers making wine just above 15%.

In case you’re wondering, Aussie wines can have more alcohol simply because of a warm year which means you get grapes with a high sugar content. But more often it is because Australia allows its producers to add table sugar (or grape sugar) directly into the wine, a technique called chaptalisation.

Clearly a wine producer could play with the numbers, for example providing an “average” alcohol content to show the brand in question isn’t always over 15%. But perhaps the UCI could update the number to 17% in order to accommodate the New World?