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EU reforms should put consumers above growers, say Lords

Banning sucrose would put European producers at a commercial disadvantage to rival producers in countries like Australia, South Africa and Chile.

EU wine reforms should focus on the consumer not the producer if winemakers are to compete with their New World rivals, according to a UK House of Lords report.

The House’s European Union Committee criticised European Commission plans to extend the ban on new vineyard plantings in the EU, and to prohibit the use of sucrose to enrich wine.

While the former would shut out new producers, the committee argued, the latter – the sucrose ban – would put European producers at a commercial disadvantage.

However, the Lords backed Commission plans to end all distillation subsidies, arguing that such reforms were ‘long overdue’. But plans to overhaul wine classification and labelling rules do not go far enough, they warned.

‘The present system is not only a burden on the EU tax payer, it is also damaging the industry,’ said Lord Sewel, chairman of the Lords EU sub-committee on environment and agriculture.

‘EU wine producers still produce some outstanding wines, but many of them have lost touch with the demands of their consumers. New World winemakers are much more consumer-focused and move quickly to meet changing demands. That is why EU wine is losing ground in the market.’

The UK’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which gave evidence to the Lords committee, welcomed the report. The WSTA argues that radical reform of the EU wine industry is needed, while preserving the ‘best traditions’ of European winemaking.

The Lords were responding to EU wine reform proposals drawn up by the European Commission. This radical policy rethink moves away from widespread subsidies and towards a greater emphasis on satisfying the market.

However, many MEPs have voiced their criticism of measures which, if implemented, could leave many of their electors at risk of bankruptcy.

Written by Richard Woodard

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