EU wine reforms challenged in France

Leading members of the French wine industry have signalled their intention to challenge EU winemaking reforms.

Earlier this year, the EU announced a raft of reforms that will see the phasing out of vine-pulling, crisis distillation, and grants for retiring from viticulture.

It cited both the high cost, and the fact the measures do nothing to encourage producers to address the problem of quality.

The reforms will mostly affect France, Spain and Italy, who between them receive almost 90% of EU subsidies. Current proposals are due to be fomally voted on in the European parliament on 24 January, with decisions being made public from February and brought in from 2008.

In the lead-up to this, in a move that is becoming known as the ‘reforms of the reforms’, leading members of the French wine industry are calling for countrywide action to ensure their voices are heard.

While agreeing that reforms are inevitable and necessary, there are several key areas that they say need protecting. First, that all reforms take into account social needs, that wine is seen not just as a business but as part of France’s ‘heritage’, and third, that each individual country remains largely responsible for their own wine making regulations.

In the last few weeks the EU has agreed to the use of wood chips, but the INAO in France has said it remains banned for AOC wines.

Joel Castany, president of Europe’s wine grape growers’ association told an assembled group of winemakers at the recent Vinitech fair, ‘France needs to find a compromise, but we only have until February to pressure the government over our official position on these reforms. We need to be united.’

Alain Vironneau, president of the CIVB, told, ‘For me, the most important thing this week has been that Russel Milldon from the EU Commission for Agriculture has visited Vinitech and kept this debate open. What Europe needs is a dialogue, not a diktat.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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