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French decide on EU spending, warn against loss of regionality

French wine producers this week announced how they are going to spend their €171m EU windfall.

The money has been allotted as part of the European Union’s reform of the wine production sector.

Jean Louis Salies, president of the French producers union, Comite des Interprofessions des Vins a Appellation d’Origine (CNIV) welcomed the EU reforms.

The CNIV, which represents professional bodies from 19 different wine regions including Bordeaux, Rhone, Languedoc, Loire and Champagne, said €90m, more than half the EU funds, must be spent on vineyard restructuring.

This would give producers more choice about what kinds of wines they make, and enable them, if they wish, to make more new world type wines, based on grape variety rather than the region they come from.

The final decision on division of funds rests with the agriculture minister, Michel Barnier, who must return his proposals to the EU by June. Funding, if approved, will then be distributed by the French government as of September 2008.

Salies also warned the government against any attempt to wrest control from regional bodies.

‘The future of our sector depends on empowering regional bodies and giving them what they need to answer market demands,’ he said.

‘It has never been clear, between region and state, who decides what. Now is the time for that,’ he said.

‘Bordeaux is not Champagne and Champagne is not Languedoc Roussillon. There is no one strategy, and no national solution is possible,’ he said, referring to a proposed ‘modernisation plan’, drawn up by the French agricultural minister and due to be presented to President Sarkozy at the end of May.

Producers fear the plan is an attempt to centralise control of wine production at the very moment the EU is trying to decentralise control.

‘A plan like this never sold a drop more wine, and it will stop us working responsibly, competitively and efficiently,’ Salies said.

Written by Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux

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