Cautious approach to reforming the wine sector, say MEPs

Pressmeddelande   •   Feb 15, 2007 17:05 CET

Cautious, carefully-managed reform is needed to restore the vitality of the EU wine sector, says a report adopted by the European Parliament with 484 votes in favour to 129 against and 24 abstentions. It recommends retaining distillation measures for now, empowering Member States to restrict grubbing-up of vines, and liberalising planting rights only gradually. It also advocates strict labelling rules and maintaining current regulations on acceptable winemaking practices.


The own-initiative report by Katerina BATZELI (PES, EL) on the EU's Common Market Organisation (CMO) in wine argues that the "public storage of alcohol should be abolished," but at the same time "rejects the immediate abolition of the distillation mechanism and other market support measures" and suggests that the distillation measures should be converted into two parts:

"compulsory distillation, which will act as a safety net and allow the gradual reorganisation of the market", and

"voluntary distillation, [...] which will allow the adaptation of the sector for wine alcohol used for incorporation into certain wine products", such as liqueurs and brandies.

Furthermore, the Parliament "considers it appropriate to offer incentives for alternative uses of alcohol and the by-products of vinification, via bio-energy policies that may make a valid contribution to combating production surpluses," and argues for a new crisis management mechanism for use in times of emergency.

Grubbing up

Parliament reiterates its stance that "the issue of permanent abandonment of wine-growing must not be the centrepiece of CMO reform." It considers it essential that each Member State and region be able to set a "flexible upper limit for grubbing-up for each region, and that they should have the opportunity to select which categories of wine will take priority in the grubbing-up programme." To this end, the report suggests that eligibility for grubbing-up aid should be subject to certain Community criteria, to take account of the specific features of, for example:

- vineyards in mountainous, coastal and island regions,

- vineyards with geographical indications or registered designations of origin,

- vineyards where soil erosion or biodiversity loss could be a problem,

- traditional regions of historical importance, or

- vineyards that have received structural aid from the EU.

Liberalisation of new plantings and promotion of consumption

The report maintains that a gradual reallocation of planting rights is necessary, in order to avoid an "uncontrolled expansion of the EU's wine potential from having a negative impact on the market." To this end, the House favours allocating new rights primarily to young farmers, especially for the production of quality wines. It suggests that regional authorities should take decisions on liberalising planting rights, especially where geographical indications are involved.

"The Commission should lay down some activity guidelines for the promotion of European wines, based on moderate and responsible wine consumption," said the European Parliament. It also suggested promoting specifically labelled European wines to the world market.

Aid for "must"

The European Parliament emphasises the need to provide for aid for must and concentrated rectified must used for enrichment, since it is necessary to preserve an historical oenological practice stresses the need to maintain aid for must used to produce grape juice, the aim being to maintain a product used for a purpose other than wine production that is important for the sector and helps to maintain market equilibrium. (Must is the mixture of fermenting grape juice, pips, skins, stalks and so on)

Winemaking practices and labelling

The report acknowledges that wine "enrichment has a direct impact on production levels," but it nevertheless suggests that the current legislation be kept unchanged, as "the Commission's proposal on reducing the maximum level of enrichment is not justified." Enrichment of wine with sugar and concentrated must "has to be allowed in every wine growing region where it was traditionally used and where no structural surpluses exist" it adds. The report also strongly supports a ban on the "fermentation of imported musts and the mixing thereof with Community musts." It specifically requests that the power to approve new winemaking practices within the EU should lie with the Council (in consultation with Parliament), and not with the Commission.

With respect to labelling, the report stresses that the use of oenological practices that are not allowed in the EU should be clearly labelled on imported beverages. The European Parliament also stressed the need to better secure protected geographical indications and protected designations of origin in WTO talks. To this end, it expresses support for bilateral negotiations with third countries on mutual recognition of such designations. Finally, the report also calls for harmonisation of Member States' rules on languages to be used on labels within the EU.

Ref.: 20070208IPR02894
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