EU ministers finally agree on compromised wine reform deal

27 August, 2008
Page 5 
A deal to reform Europe's wine sector has been agreed after nearly three days of gruelling negotiations and last-minute compromises.

Consensus between most member states means the EU now has a blueprint for re-launching its wines on world markets - two years after talks began.

Agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel was forced to water down her original proposals to appease big producer nations, however.

France scored two late victories in the talks. It ensured that individual member states would have the option of ­controlling planting rights until 2018.

The Commission had wanted to abolish planting rights by 2013, while other nations, including the UK, pushed for a 2010 end date. But France and others feared a free-for-all on planting in famous wine regions such as Bordeaux.

France also secured access to EU funding for "crisis distillation" of excess wines for another four years. After that period, member states must seek the approval of the European Commission.

Northern Europe's winemakers were celebrating after being told they would neither be banned from enriching wines with sugar nor have to highlight the practice on labels.

On grubbing up vines, ministers agreed to fund a voluntary scheme to uproot 175,000ha across the EU over three years. Countries producing fewer than 5 million litres of wine annually would be ineligible.

Fischer Boel's original proposals for "deep-rooted reform" included grubbing up 400,000ha of vines and a blanket ban on sugar enrichment, or chaptalisation. She also strongly advocated an end to the cycle of overproduction and distillation.

"I am delighted that we were able to find a compromise," she said, despite having her plans curtailed.

"Instead of spending much of our budget getting rid of unwanted surpluses, we can now concentrate on taking on our competitors and winning back market share."

Comment

Christian Davis

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