French wine union rejects EU, US deal

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

French wine cooperatives have rejected the recent wine labelling
agreement between the EU and US, claiming the deal will not benefit
European producers as much as the Commission thinks.

Under the agreement, the US administration said it would propose to Congress that it should limit American producers' use of 17 'traditional' wine names found in the European Union, including Burgundy, Champagne and Claret.

The EU, in return, promised to make it easier for American wine makers to gain access to member states' markets.

Now, France's wine cooperatives union (CCVF) has called the agreement "unacceptable"​. It said that even if the US succeeded in gaining protection for the 17 names "there would be no concrete changes"​.

"Businesses already using semi-generic names [for their wines] could continue using them for an unlimited time period,"​ the CCVF said.

An spokesperson for the European Commission told www.BeverageDaily.com​ that US wine producers will provisionally be able to continue using 14 semi-generic EU names, including classic, clos, vintage, ruby and superior for the next three years, though this may be extended.

The CCVF said it was also concerned about a "regrettable precedent"​ the agreement may have set concerning wine-making practices.

The agreement provides for recognition of existing EU and US wine-making practices and a consultative process for accepting new wine-making practices.

A number of European producers have long been against certain 'non-traditional' US wine-making practices, such as putting wood shavings into wine vats to help the wine's taste reach maturity faster, and the addition of certain flavour aromas.

Neither the US nor the EU require bottles' labels to detail wine-making processes, treatments, or techniques that do not relate to health and safety.

The new agreement says a second round of negotiations, which the Commission spokesperson admitted would be a little more difficult, is set to begin 90 days after the initial deal comes into force.

This will involve: a dialogue on geographical indications, a dialogue on the matter of names of origin including the future of the semi-generic terms, a dialogue on the use of traditional expressions, low alcohol wines, certification, wine-making practices and the creation of a joint committee on wine issues.

The CCVF called on the Commission to continue negotiations with the US in order to get a fairer deal.

It seems the importance of the US has not been lost on the CCVF. America is the second biggest export market by value for French wines, although French vintners' market share is being eroded by the New World.

The European Commission argues that European wine makers, faced with over-production and declining market shares, would significantly benefit from better access to the US, which spent €2bn importing Europe's wines in 2004.

The need to secure existing markets and find new ones is also high on the agenda of CCVF president Denis Verdier, who spoke recently of the need to "seduce" new consumers.

The problem for some growers is how much ground the EU may cede for securing these new markets on their behalf.

Related topics: Markets, Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider

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