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French distillation backed by EU

Published:  23 July, 2008

The EU has made the long-awaited decision to allow European producers - most notably in France and Spain - to undertake a crisis distillation' of millions of hectolitres (hl) of table wine.

The European Wine Management Committee has granted France the right to distil 1.5 million hl of wine at a price of e3.35 per degree of alcohol and per hl.

Although subsidised distillation of unwanted stock is common in France, this is the first time such a large amount of AOC wine has ended up being converted into industrial alcohol.

Spain, meanwhile, has been granted the right to distil 4 million hl at a price of e1.914 per degree of alcohol per hectolitre.

The French figure is less than that originally requested - 2.5 million hectolitres, 2 million at AOC level. The French agriculture minister, Dominique Bussereau (who requested EU permission in January) said he was thrilled' that the decision has finally come through'.

Producers can start distilling from around 23 May, when the full EU rules are published, and continue until 15 July.