The EU-South Africa Wine & Spirits Agreement was today ratified under the oaks in front of the historic Nederburg Manor House in Paarl.

An EU delegation, led by the director general for Agriculture, Mr Silvio Rodriguez and South Africa's director general for the Department of Trade and Industry, Dr Alistair Ruiters and his Agricultural counterpart Bongiwe Njobe, signed the agreement, which was part of broader trade agreement between the two groups.

This finalises a technical wine agreement, which affects oenological practices, intellectual property and trade administration issues, while the spirits agreement deals only with intellectual property and trade administration.

The two parties have been wrangling over a general trade agreement since 1994, where there was a great deal of horse-trading to resolve technical and political issues.

According to statistics, more than 75% of all South African wines and spirits exports go to EU countries.

Discussions will still be held to discuss the EU's €15m-pledged support for the restructuring of the South African wine industry. Cape wine producers will have to fight it out on a first come first serve for the 42 million wine quota which became effective as of 1 January 2002.

According to initial, unofficial figures from SAWIS (South African Wine Industry Information & Services), 170,153,357 litres of wine were exported in 2001, compared with 141,294,202 litres in 2001 an increase of 20%.