Blog: Olly WehringWhy whine about wine reform?

Olly Wehring | 5 July 2007

The long-awaited proposals for reform of Europe’s wine industry, published by the European Commission earlier this week, look set to divide the industry sharply.

Already only two days since they were unveiled, they have set farmers and producers at odds with each other.

Lamberto Gancia, president of the European Wine Trade Association (CEEV) has welcomed the Commission strategy, saying: “If we wish to remain a world leader, we need a market-orientated approach allowing EU wines to be more competitive in both the internal and external markets.”

But the EU farmers’ Brussels-based lobby (Copa-Cogeca) damned the Commission plans as not providing any help to protect producers from competition from third countries.    

A Copa official was sharply critical of the Commission’s grubbing up proposals. He claimed that the consequent fall in EU wine production would just give greater opportunities for imported wines to find more space in the market.

For our part, just-drinks is siding with the Commission. As Mariann Fischer-Boel, the EU’s Farm Commissioner, said this week, reform is long overdue with sales falling against New World competitors at a frightening rate. In fact if things are allowed to continue unabated, 15% of European production would be surplus by 2010.

Our chief wine correspondent Chris Losh is providing a two-part analysis of the reforms in this week’s Hot Topic, which I thoroughly recommend you read. But before you do, I’ll leave you with my tuppence worth.

Firstly, my only misgiving with this proposal is that it hasn’t gone far enough. The policy recommends reducing the European vineyard area by 200,000 hectares over the next five years, which is only half of what is really needed to bring balance to the wine market.

Secondly, what must other countries think when the EU takes them to task over tariff reform or protectionism? As huge a fan as I am of the European wine sector, I can’t help but think that the millions of euros pumped into the European wine industry by the authorities each year smacks of the most incredible double standards.


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