Wine industry reform proposals about to be uncorked will not sit well with Europe’s main wine countries. Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel this Thursday is to recommend diverting some subsidies to discourage unwanted surpluses.
Wine that cannot be sold usually ends up being distilled into industrial alcohol or biofuels. Fischer Boel’s idea is to offer winemakers cash to dig up vines, over a five-year period. To drain the “wine lakes” and fend off New World competition, EU production has to fall. The bloc spends some 1.3 billion euros a year subsidising its wine sector, last reformed in 1999. The plan is not to shrink that budget, but to streamline, simplify and refocus its priorities.
In recent years, with imports surging, the EU has been spending around half a billion euros a year on distilling unwanted wine. In contrast, only some 14 million euros per year has been going towards marketing and promoting quality wines.