Grape power kept this demonstration peaceful. As Europe’s wine ministers – or rather agriculture ministers – negotiate vine-ripping reform in the Council chamber, producers raise their glasses in opposition. More than 60 European wine-growing regions with 15 countries involved were represented. Their resolution says ‘no’ to liberalised planting, ‘no’ to extensive uprooting of vineyards and ‘yes’ to a viticultural observatory. As for the Member States, Paris and Berlin, Europe’s first and fourth wine producers, they have been saying all along – with Italy and Spain – that Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel’s proposals are bad.
Her offer of cash rewards to winemakers to encourage them to dig up some of their vines, as a way to drain vast “wine lakes” of stockpiled wine has had few takers. Re-packaging the whole sector to fit the modern reality of New World competition is what the EU farm ministers have been debating – a first. Producers of quality wines such as Chianti, Rioja, Chablis and Burgundy say the plan would hurt sales and it threatens their future.