Removing All CA Vineyards…Twice Over.

The crisis in the European wine world has less to do with quality and more to do with quantity. Let’s face it, wonderful wines are made across the continent. Yet, the Europeans, led by the French, are getting their hats handed to them by imports of relatively high quality, low priced wine from the New World.

Something has to be done and it appears that the European Union is on the job.

The Financial Times reports that among the European-wide reforms that are under consideration is the financing of the removal of 400,000 hectares of vineyards.

400,000 hectares!

This is roughly twice the amount of vineyards in all of California.

The problem in Europe is that there is little incentive for farmers to remove low quality, high production vineyards because they know they they will at  the grapes for the production of cheap plonk, thereby driving down the price of grapes for everyone. It’s a vicious circle.

Mariann Fischer Boel, the European Union’s agriculture commissioner, says the coming proposal for wine reform will result in vicious political battles. She’s up against an entrenches culture of subsides- taking farmers that are seeing their real income dropping like a rock through a vat of plonk.

3 Responses

  1. JohnLopresti - June 2, 2006

    Colonial chickens come home to roost, bringing a bright bottle from one of the bodegas listed there:
    Forget Falklands and a respite in Patagonia; this is a time to use the Euro’s strengths to help the negociantes purveyors of colonial wines. The FT article you linked is paywalled. Agrarian politics are part of the infrastructure in many European economies. View the controversy as growing pains in ‘old Europe’.

  2. Craig Camp - June 3, 2006

    I think you are missing the boat here. Very little of the hectares of vineyards that could/should be removed have anything to do with exported wine. This issue in Europe is more driven by the reduction of domestic consumption than declines in exports.
    Also I would severely disagree with you on value. I find little value in American, Australian and South American wines in the under $20 category. It is far easier to find interesting wines from France, Italy or
    Spain than inexpensive wines from the New World, which tend to be industrial carbon-copy plonk. The best values in the wine world are to be found in Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais, Muscadet, Puglia, Marche and Toro just to name a few. I can think of no New World wines that can come close to competing with such wines in value for money.

  3. Eve Collins - June 4, 2006

    … it will be a “vicious battle for sure!”. Next to the acreage reduction there is a lot of ammunition in the other measures you did not mention, such as:
    – allow to a limited extent the mixing of European and non-European wines
    – eliminate minimum alcohol content rules
    – reduce chaptalisation (increase of alcohol content in the early stages of fermentation by adding sugar) currently allowed for certain regions from 4% to 2%
    – simplify labelling rules (more focus on wineries less on official classifications)
    – abolish the annual subsidies for distillation and market support (Euro 500 million)
    The proposal will undermine the AOC system – from France’s point of view it should be introduced in all of Europe! The Germans will fight the chaptalisation reduction. Italians will probably agree but do what they want anyway.
    The French government will play for time – at least until after the April 2007 Presidential elections. Taking on the interest groups is suicidal in France, as both centrist and socialist governments have found out in the past. Apparently it has to get a lot worse before meaningful reforms can be achieved – not only in the wine industry. Vive l’inertie!

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