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Move On Wine – July 4

  • April 27th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

wine-pic-102.jpgThe European Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, has promised to make public plans for a sweeping reform of the wine industry on 4 July.

The Commissioner restated many of the Commission’s current positions in a speech to an industry conference, Intervitis Interfructa, at Stuttgart, on 23.4.07.

Points contained:

“We must make sure that our optimism is well founded. Among other things this means updating our rules and systems for our wine industry.

“The European Union has the best wines in the world … but we don’t all behave all the time as if we really believed it.”

Examples of this lack of faith:

“Anti-competitive” support for distillation of surpluses, which should be abolished.

Demands for retention of tight controls over planting rights, “preventing any expansion by successful wine-makers.”

Suggestions that wine should be protected through being declared a “sensitive product” in World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.

“Such requests don’t give me the impression that we really believe we have a champion in the ring,” she said.

Commissioner Fischer Boel advocates competitiveness.

“We should abolish our various market management tools so that market signals can find their way through to producers and so that we can spend the money on positive measures instead of destroying the wine that is produced.”

It is a current EU theme in agriculture: financial support must continue, but must be decoupled from the market; links between production and support to be broken.

“I believe this money can be put in a ‘national envelope’ for each Member State, to be spent on measures appropriate to its own wine industry – such as contributions to insurance, or support for ‘green harvests’, reconstruction and reconversion”, said Commissioner Fischer Boel.
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Grubbing up schemes remain a priority, seen as assisting uneconomic producers to pull out of the business, and so clearing the way for extended vine planting rights, whereby “competitive producers would be free to produce more.”

On quality policy and labelling the Commissioner wants solidarity with WTO agreements.

This would include moving away from restrictions such as those which prevent table wines without registered GI (Geographical Indications) showing a vine variety or harvest year.

On “oenological practices” (the science of viticulture), Europe should generally align its practices with those of the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine), as these would represent some liberalisation, to “give producers a competitive edge.”

“It is essential to the success of our wines that consumers are clear about what they are buying, ” she said – by no means for the first time.

Member States would continue to be able to make exceptions, e.g. restricting permissible practices in the case of quality wines. Exceptions would continue to be made

On controversies over chapitalisation, (adding of sugar to grape must to enhance alcohol content), the Commissioner favours banning it, in compliance with the WTO.

I n prospect: sweeping and deep changes for the wine producing industries in Europe, backed with large finances and political will, (at least in the powerful reaches of the European Commission and some member government of the EU).

SCREWTOPS NOW

A footnote on wine this month:

The International Herald Tribune indicates that French wine producers have begun a cautious and begrudging move to screwcaps, with this year about 7% of bottles sealed in that non-traditional way.

That compares with virtually 100% in Switzerland, 90% in New Zealand, and about 60% each in Australia and California.

Higher end wines in France looked set to hold out against the change forever; otherwise various producers were steadily giving ground.

Reference:

Michael Johnston, “Learning to love the screwtop bottle”, International Herald Tribune, Paris, 19.4.07, p 7

Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development, “The reform of the wine market regime – more power to compete”, Intervitis Interfructa Conference, Stuttgart, 23.4.07. SPEECH/07/246

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