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New EU wine plans dubbed ‘dangerous’

The EU’s wine reform proposals – including allowing blends from grapes grown in different countries - have been branded 'dangerous' by AOC producers.

The European Commission today set out its proposals for a major overhaul of the European wine industry, which include offering producers over €7,000 per hectare to uproot vines, banning chaptalisation (adding sugar to wine), and major changes in labelling rules.

The package will cost €1.3bn per year, and will come into effect in 2008-09 if approved by EU member states.

Mariann Fischer Boel, European Commissioner for Agriculture said, ‘The first step is restore the link between supply and demand’. She added that about 200,000 hectares of vines should be uprooted, with planting restrictions continuing until 2013.

The proposals also aim to make producing varietal wines easier by authorising blended wines to be made from the same grape grown in different EU countries.

EU spokesman Michael Mann told decanter.com ‘this would have to be clearly indicated on the label’ but added it would make it ‘easier to produce wines which people want to buy’.

More producers would also be able to list the grape variety and vintage on wine labels even if they do not currently have designation of origin (DO) status, such as France’s AOC.

However, producers of DO wines said the proposals are ‘dangerous’ as the location where the grapes were grown could become the sole factor in awarding DO status.

‘The competitiveness of the EU wine sector cannot be increased at the expense of quality,’ said a group of DO producers from Italy, Spain, France and Portugal.

Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, President of the Italian DOC producers’ federation said the proposals are ‘not acceptable… we refuse that the wine making process could be done hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from the area where the grapes come from’.

They were also unconvinced by the EU’s €120m budget to promote European wines worldwide, saying it was ‘disappointing’.

Written by Frances Robinson in Brussels

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