The California Wine Institute has welcomed the official approval of the EU-US wine trade agreement agreed initially in September, hailing it as a "positive step forward in expanding the global wine market and meeting evolving consumer tastes and needs".

The Institute said the agreement has benefits for both sides. US wine exporters will be able to continue to export wines to the EU which have been produced using certain winemaking practices common in the US but not allowed in Europe. In the past, permission to import these wines had to be renewed on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, the US will continue to accept certain EU winemaking practices, the Institute said, adding that the agreement benefited the EU by enhancing protection of European names and safeguarding the EU's biggest market, the US.

The California Wine Institute, which represents some 886 California wineries, refuted the suggestion that US winemaking practices now being allowed - such as the use of oak chips and water dilution - compromise product quality, saying that they just did not conform to established practice in Europe.

"US wineries produce high quality wines which meet a broad distribution of consumer tastes and price preferences using practices approved and used throughout the wine world," said Joseph Rollo, international director of the California Wine Institute.

The Institute added that winemaking practices around the world differed on the basis of climate, tradition and the need to produce wines for a dynamic and discerning consumer market. Most of the winemaking practices covered by this agreement are already permitted for wines imported into Europe from countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile and South Africa that have trade agreements with Europe, the Institute said, and have been used by US winemakers for wines sold to the EU under the previous renewal procedure.