Frustration grows over EU wine reform

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

Slow progress of plans to radically reform Europe's wine sector
threatens to undermine many of the benefits they may bring, a
French wine industry leader told

Denis Verdier, head of France's Wine Co-operatives Union, said he regretted that the European Commission would not offer legislative proposals on wine reform until at least June.

His comments reveal creeping signs of frustration among wine industry leaders about the length of time taken to instigate reform plans, which aim to drain Europe's 1.5bn-litre wine lake and re-launch wines on the world market.

"We are losing time. Things need to happen much more quickly,"​ Verdier said, in an interview with​.

Commission officials originally said they would finalise reform plans this month, but will now wait until June or July. That means discussions are unlikely before the autumn, when EU policy makers return from their summer break.

It is almost one year since the Commission pulled together a host of wine experts to ponder reform. Plans for 'deep-rooted' change were unveiled last June, including a proposal to grub up 400,000 hectares of vines.

But initial opposition to this among the biggest wine nations - France, Spain and Italy - means EU agriculture ministers have struggled to agree.

Many standard EU wines, meanwhile, have continued to struggle from New World competition in fast-growing markets like the UK and US.

"Discussions are continuing. It will take the time that we need,"​ said a Commission spokesperson.

Some have suggested French officials would prefer to play safe until after the country's Presidential elections this June. France's Languedoc Roussillon region is set to be one of Europe's worst hit by wine reform, a Commission report found.

Verdier said: "The [grubbing up] proposals were brutal. We must do this everywhere in Europe, but we must be intelligent. We must save those with a future and there needs to be a plan to help those who leave."

Chatter about wine reform has increased among French winemakers recently, although some continue to resist change.

A source close to France's militant winemaker group, CRAV, told​ he feared more violence this year. As financial problems mounted in Languedoc, he warned the group was losing control of more radical members.

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