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EU wine budget to focus on promotion

The EU is proposing to spend more of its budget on promoting its wines abroad and less on grubbing-up vines come the adoption of its wine-reform legislation on 4 July.

A Commission spokesman confirmed that the EU now plans to pull out only 200,000 hectares of vines to help reduce Europe’s wine lake. This is half what was originally envisaged and will be on a voluntary basis, with built-in safeguards to give authorities the right to limit grubbing-up in sensitive areas. For example, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel said she believed it would do more harm than good to rip out vines in regions with steep slopes.

But the message is still that ‘profound reform’ is necessary - one reason that the Commissioner is making a case for abolishing subsidies for distillation. Such a move is seen as not only likely to ‘generate a new dynamic in the organisation of the sector’ but also to free up considerable funds, which she said can be invested more efficiently.

Also on the agenda is a move to ban the use of sugar to enrich wines. This practice is mostly used by wineries in cooler parts of Europe to improve quality but it raises issues of conformity with international winemaking standards. Furthermore, the Commissioner believes that the increasing budget for enrichment aid can be better spent elsewhere.

And where will a lot of these freed-up funds be redirected? Promotion is the buzz word and substantial funds are to be made available for marketing EU wines to third-party countries. Along with simpler labelling, this is seen as the best way to strengthen the reputation of EU quality wine and fight off New World competition.