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Concern as EU relaxes rules on vineyard planting rights

Controversial new rules that make it theoretically possible for anyone to get commercial vineyard planting rights on any piece of land - such as on the banks of the Seine in Paris - have received a cautious reception from French winemakers.

The long-mooted and much-debated deregulation of vineyard planting rights across the European Union came into effect on 1 January 1 2016.

It means previous system of planting rights has been scrapped in favour of individual, ‘non-transferable authorisations’ that can be granted even on land that was previously not considered suitable for vines.

Some fear that appellation systems could be jeopardised by changes to planting rules.

Under the new rules, French regions such as Picardie or the Ile de France around Paris can legally bottle and sell wine commercially, whereas previously any wine produced in these zones could only be for personal consumption.

But, intense lobbying from EU member states and winemakers has seen the introduction of ‘safeguards’.

New plantings cannot exceed 1% of the Member State’s existing vineyard area. For France, that means around 8,000 additional hectares in 2016. Plus, Member States have the power to limit vineyard growth in certain areas, ‘where properly justified’, the European Commissions said.

Some producers were still concerned that the changes herald more to come.

‘Although very little will effectively change in the short-term, the new regulations set up the potential for bigger changes in the future,’ Jean Baptiste Bourotte, a négociant and winemaker in Pomerol in Bordeaux told Decanter.com.

‘It’s still important to ensure that vines will not be planted in unsuitable areas, and to protect the quality image of French wine.’

Under the new rules, the three levels for labelling wine will be AOC/AOP (appellation controllée), IGP (indication géographique protégée) and VSIG (vins sans indication géographique, replacing the former table wine category). Winemakers in all three levels can apply for planting authorisations.

The changes are being brought in for a transition period that lasts until 2030, where all terms previously allowed on wine labels will still be permitted.

(Editing by Chris Mercer)


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