Spain benefits most – and least – from EU wine reforms

LAST UPDATED: 30 Mar, 2009 @ 07:27
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Reforms could see an end to Europe’s signature wines

SPAIN’S wine producers could be forced to grub up 6 per cent of their vines under a European Commission scheme.

EU officials believe the five-year plan will help drain Europe’s vast wine lake and help it compete against New World wines in the market.

In total, 200,000 hectares of the continent’s vineyards could be destroyed before 2013.

The reforms are set to come into effect on June 1, 2008, if given the green light by EU farm ministers.

This, at the moment is seen as unlikely, with the majority of farm ministers from Europe’s 27 wine producing countries set to veto the moves.


In addition, EU funding for distilling surplus wine into industrial alcohol or biofuel will come to an end as will subsidies given to producers to make cheap, table wine.

The wine region of Jérez could be hit the hardest with sherry, to which the town lends its name, under threat.

The reforms would see an end to certain types of sherry, as the addition of sugars to fortify wines, a process known as chaptalisation, would be outlawed. Producers of vinos generosos de licor, a category of sweet sherry which includes medium, pale cream and cream, must ensure these wines contain five grams of sugar per litre.

The Champagne region in France would also be hit if this move is agreed to, as cane sugar is added to this famous wine as would Oporto in Portugal.

Carrot and stick

Under the new deal – which was presented by EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, wine producers will be offered a sweetener to encourage them to dig up their vines.

“Europe is losing to dynamic producers from other parts of the world,” she said announcing the reforms at a European Commission meeting in Brussels.

“These proposals will boost competition, drain this infamous wine lake and make things more simple.”

Europeans currently drink 12 million hectolitres – or 1.2 billion litres – of Old World wine per year compared to 13 million hectolitres of wine from New World countries, including the USA, Chile and South Africa.

Spain would receive an annual compensation of 470 million euros from Brussels – an amount greater than that given to Italy and France, who would both receive 420 million euros per year.

Between them, vines in Spain, Italy and France account for 80 per cent of the European total.

If the continent’s farm ministers accept the proposals, an unspecified percentage of this money must be spent on the marketing of quality wines.

It is thought the continent’s farm ministers will strongly oppose the reforms when they come under debate later in the summer. Describing them as “unsatisfactory,” Francisco Mombiela, a spokesman for Spain’s Department of Agriculture and fishing, said: “There is a long way to go for these reforms to be to Spain’s liking.”

The Partido Popular agriculture representative in Brussels, Esther Herranz, also criticised Ms Fischer Boel’s proposals.
“Spain comes out badly from these reforms.”

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