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My View: The EU wine reforms

Published:  18 January, 2007

The first thing to say about the proposed EU wine reforms is they are nothing more than an updated discussion document.

One thing is certain, the proposals in the current form will never make it onto the statute books.

The EU will remain true to type and we'll be left with some god-awful EU fudge costing more than all the subsidies, crisis distillation, etc, put together.

That said, any reforms that reduce the size of the so-called wine lake and the nonsensical financial support surrounding it can only be good for the industry's image. But quite how turning bad grape farmers into bad carrot/pumpkin/aubergine farmers will save the European wine industry is beyond me.

The 20 million advertising budget (criticised by some as too little), if well used and properly targeted, could make a significant difference.

Things like a ban on sugar enrichment will never stick (no doubt Champagne has already negotiated its way around this), and relaxing labelling laws is hardly radical - it's been a blindingly obvious thing to do for at least the past 10-15 years.

Cross-region blending within a country makes sense, but the concept of "European Wine" (cross-country blending) as a mighty blade to cut the New World down to size doesn't.

Quite how blending, say, some Bulgarian luyno with a splash of French merde will produce commercially successful wine eludes me, and besides, even if it did, does the consumer actually want "European wine"? No, of course they don't.

James Forbes is director of Wines of Argentina's UK office