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Embargo: Tuesday 30 October 2007
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

CONSUMERS NOT WINE GROWERS MUST BE FOCUS OF REFORMED EU WINE MARKET

The House of Lords European Union Committee have called on the EU wine industry to switch its focus from producers to consumers in order to compete with the growing popularity of New World wine.

In their final report on the EU wine industry, and the proposals for its reform put forward by the European Commission, the Committee insist that "the key objective of reform must be to stimulate a greater sense of competitiveness in many parts of the wine industry."

The Committee argue that there has been insufficient recognition of changes in wine drinking habits and tastes in recent years and that too many EU wine producers are not responding to the demands of newer wine consumers. The Committee argue also that the EU's attempts to subsidise a European wine industry based on small-scale production is unsustainable in a global wine market and that Europe should be looking to secure greater scale of production, whether from cooperative or corporate farming. Such structural changes should, moreover, be market-led and consumer-focused.

The Committee reassert the conclusions of their interim report (published in July) on the European Commission's recent proposals for legislative reform of the EU wine sector-namely that:

  • The Commission is right in its proposal to end all distillation subsidies.

  • The proposed extension of the ban on new plantings within the EU, however, is a step in the wrong direction. A ban is unnecessary, say the Committee, if distillation subsidies are removed and it would damage the industry as a whole by shutting out entrepreneurial new producers.

  • There should not be a ban, as is proposed, on using sucrose rather than grape must to enrich wine as this will put European producers at a competitive disadvantage in relation to New World growers.

  • The proposed reforms to the system by which EU wines are classified and labelled are a step in the right direction but they do not go far enough - because they maintain the increasingly artificial distinction between 'quality' and 'table' wines and are not sufficiently geared to the needs of the mass consumer.

Commenting Lord Sewel, Chairman of the Lords EU Sub- Committee on Environment and Agriculture, said:

"The Commission has put forward serious and long-overdue proposals for reform of a wine sector which faces ever-increasing competition from New World producers. The present system is not only a burden on the EU tax payer, it is also damaging the industry.

"EU wine producers still produce some outstanding wines but many of them have lost touch with the demands of their consumers. New World wine-makers are much more consumer-focused and move quickly to meet changing demands. That is why EU wine is losing ground in the market,

"The EU wine industry can still thrive in the global market but it must take steps now to make itself more competitive and consumer driven. Legislative reform is certainly needed, but there is a need also for a change in mind-set on the part of many producers."

Notes to Editors

  1. The report European Wine: A Better Deal for All (Final Report), is published by The Stationery Office, House of Lords European Union Committee (Sub-Committee on Environment and Agriculture), 29th report of 2006/07, HL Paper 184.

  2. The report will be available online shortly after publication at:

http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_s_comm_d.cfm

For copies of the report or to request or to request an interview with Lord Sewel, please contact Owen Williams (Committee Press Officer) on 020 7219 8659.

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