Wine enrichment dominates pre-vote EU talks

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Wine European parliament Mariann fischer boel

EU Agricultural commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel will continue to
work towards driving greater innovation in EU wine production,
though she vowed yesterday to get tough on wine enrichment as part
of industry reform in the bloc.

Speaking at the European parliament ahead of today's vote on draft wine reforms, Boel said she had not blocked her ears to calls to continue sugar enrichment - called Chaptilisation - though stressed it could not continue in its current form. The comments will be seen as a victory for wine producers in the region, who had faced a possible ban on both sugar and grape must enrichment in earlier proposals. The industry is still facing a difficult decision on how to move forward on the issue. "I am not inclined to accept the status quo, so any compromise would imply new conditions,"​ the commissioner stated.​ Chaptilisation is a common practice in many cooler European wine producing nations, and involves adding sugar to wine to boost alcohol content. The process is already banned in Australia, and similar legislation in Europe could hit processors hard. ​The proposals are part of a wider industry reform designed to increase competitiveness of Europe's wine industry amidst declining domestic demand. The decline has been attributed to growing the popularity of new world ranges from Australia and New Zealand in the bloc. Fischer Boel said that finding a solution for the issue of enrichment was hugely important for the reforms. However, she added that any successful compromise would need to bridge the demands of producers in both the north and south of the bloc. While cooler northern climates like Germany, Austria and Luxembourg favour sugar as a means to enrich their wines, southern producers tend to use grape must for the same process. The commissioner said that must use was also not conducive means of ensuring more profitable wine production. "Aid for enrichment with must cannot continue at the same level and in the same manner: it's an old-fashioned, ineffective, costly and trade-distorting support,"​ she stated. Boel said she would also continue to discuss additional financial support for wine innovation and cellar restructuring as part of the bloc's rural development fund. However, she added that the debate over a national envelope - or budget - for producers was closed, and was therefore not up for further review. Though accepting the industry faced a number of difficult decisions ahead, Fischer Boel claimed that the time was right for change in European wine production. "Carrying out reform will mean investing effort - but we'll get a good return,"​ she stated. "The cost of inaction is too high for us to accept."

Related topics Markets Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider

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