Winemakers with vineyards on steep slopes around Europe are looking to secure special subsidies and recognition from the European Union to reflect the extra work involved.

Vineyards like these in Lombardy, surrounding the Casa Negri winery, could benefit from the proposal

Vineyards on slopes with a gradient of at least 30% should get special support or they could disappear, according to the Assembly of European Wine Regions (AREV).

Delegates from 12 regions attended AREV’s Steep Slope Viticulture Commission meeting in late January to discuss a formal proposal. Represented regions included Alsace and Rhone-Alpes in France, Bade-Wurtemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany, Styria in Austria, as well as Lombardy, Piemont and Trentino in Italy.

It is estimated that between 20 and 30 wine regions in Europe have a particularly high density of steep slopes, where mechanisation is difficult and so cultivation is more labour intensive.

Dominique Janin, joint secretary-general of AREV, told Decanter.com that many of the regions are struggling to maintain historic vineyards, particularly in areas such as the Savoie and Beaujolais.

‘There are huge price differentials between this type of vineyard and those on flatter land, and we are concerned it will become even more difficult to persuade winemakers to continue to protect the vineyards after planting rights [in the EU] are relaxed in 2016,’ said Janin.

‘We are looking for the European Commission and European Parliament to provide a safeguard within the Common Agricultural Policy, allowing winemakers to apply for direct grants or other aid measures, and to consider other actions such as an indication on the wine label to mark out the special character of the wines.’

Jannin added, ‘All of these steep-slope areas have an irreplaceable character, and most need help to safeguard the essential methods of working the soils such as terracing or dry stone walls – both of which are very expensive to maintain.’

Written by Jane Anson