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Wine regions oppose ‘catastrophic’ EU expansion plans

European wine growing regions are battling European Commission plans to allow massive vineyard expansion.

Burgundy: vineyard area could double

To boost the wine sector’s competitiveness by reducing production costs, the EU has included an amendment to liberalise planting rights, from January 2016, within proposals for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – a policy which one lobbyist said would have ‘catastrophic’ consequences.

If the reform goes through, by 2019 there will be no restrictions to planting vines across the European Union, even in countries that today have no vineyards.

Bordeaux vineyards could theoretically rise from 120,000 hectares (ha) to 220,000ha, and Burgundy from 28,000ha to 59,000ha.

Other areas affected include Rioja, currently with 59,212ha planted, which could go up to 350,000 ha, and the Douro: 45,000ha to 250,000ha.

The new plantings will be AOC, IGT or table wine.

To date, 12 EU countries – Germany, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Spain, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – have registered their disagreement and formally asked the European Commission to reconsider.

These however do not form a majority of the 27 member states.

‘We need 14 countries and 255 votes to have a majority,’ Francis Fabre, retired winemaker from the Gers who is working on the project, told Decanter.com.

‘So we are stepping up the fight – particularly to convince other producer countries such as Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Malta, and some consumer countries such as the UK to join us.

‘The idea of liberalisation could in theory lower the cost of wine, but already prices are low because of the global crisis, and most producers are struggling.

‘The effect of this could be catastrophic.’

Philippe Pellaton, president of the Syndicat Général of the Côtes du Rhône said: ‘This is not some technical adjustment that will simply lower the quality of wine, but will have heavy consequences for society in terms of jobs, tourism and the viticultural landscape.

‘It does not just affect winemakers – and we need to convince our politicians of this by 2012, when they are still finalising the changes to the CAP. If we leave it closer to the 2016 deadline, things could get ugly.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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