Some say the reforms will damage smaller vineyards

Some say the reforms will damage smaller vineyards

Wine growers in Europe should find out at the end of this year if the European Union will abandon decades-old planting rights, a move that some groups fear will lead to significant job losses across the continent's vineyards.

A high-level group from the EU's agriculture ministry will meet on 21 September to discuss the liberalising reforms, which will remove restrictions on planting new vines. The group will meet for a final time in November and a decision is expected before the end of the year.

But, opponents of the plans say it will allow cheap products to flood the market and put smaller, family-owned labels at risk.

“Big companies that want to make cheap wine, it is in their interests to be able to plant just about anywhere,” Daniela Ida Zandona, spokesperson for the European Federation of Origin Wines (EFOW), told just-drinks today (3 September).

“We're not going to get new markets with this wine because we're never going to be competitive on price. Chile is always going to be cheaper than us for many reasons, labour costs and so forth. What we're competitive on is the practices we've been working on for the past 100 to 200 years.”

EFOW, which is backed by wine growers with protected designation of origin and protected geographical indication stauses in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Hungry, said it rejects the offer of state aid for wine growers, one of the compromises said to be under consideration by the high-level group.

“We want positive measures, not negative measures,” Zandona said. “Instead we want the authorities to back greater promotion measures.”

Last week, France’s agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll said he was joined by Italy, Spain and Germany in opposing the reforms, which were part of wider changes to European agricultural policies in 2008. If the reforms are not reversed, the planting rights will be scrapped in 2016, although national governments can maintain them for a further two years.

Earlier this year, a Rabobank report said the EU's wine reforms had fallen short of targets.

Today, Le Foll said France's grape harvest will fall to 42.5m hectolitres of wine compared to 51m last year, according to The Daily Telegraph.