The European Commission has expressed concern at the growing number of requests from EU wine-producing countries for permission to grant national distillation aid to growers.

Franz Fischler, EU agriculture commissioner for wine, said it was "quite worrying" that member states wanted to grant "pure operating aids which do not bring about any structural improvement."

Fischler said France and Portugal requested approval of state-aid schemes designed to bridge the gap between cash paid to producers for crisis distillation and the higher aid level under voluntary
distillation.

Separately the Commission said that a request by Spain for the crisis distillation of 2.6m hectolitres of wine has been approved in full.

Spain had made its request in February but was told it would have to wait as the budget for wine distillation had been exhausted. However other
countries, principally Germany, have now given up part of their entitlements.