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EU to reform wine sector

Published:  18 January, 2007

In years gone by, news that the European Commission is to draw up a strategy for reforms in the European Union's wine sector would barely have raised an eyebrow. It's a French/Italian/Spanish problem - let them deal with it. Not any more.

With a burgeoning wine industry, all of a sudden we are very interested in what the EC is proposing. The news that the EC Wine Management Committee has voted to open crisis distillation' of 1.5 million hectolitres of quality French wine, and for Italy a maximum of 2.5 million hl of table wine and 100 million hl of quality wine (demands from Spain and Greece are under consideration), serves to indicate the difficulties the traditional Old World wine producers have got themselves into. Production led, they have been outsmarted and outsold by the consumer-led New World countries.

Meanwhile, the UK wine industry has moved from being the eccentric - now looking increasingly visionary - cottage industry to a fully fledged, professionally set up sector. No more is English wine a joke. Our sparkling wines are world class and the whites now compete with everything else in the value-for-money, everyday-drinking sector. Only the reds remain a bit of a problem, but with experience and global warming, we'll soon crack that as well.

Harpers supports the reform of the continental European wine sector, but the UK wine industry deserves discretionary treatment. Having got this far, what UK producers do not want is European bureaucrats dictating to them what they can and cannot plant and cultivate - certainly if there is quite obviously a demand. As the world's largest wine importer by value, hopefully we should have some clout with the European Commission.

Christian Davis