EU reform concerns UK wine industry
The EU wine reform’s proposed extension to the planting restrictions along with the chaptalisation ban are causing concern for the UK wine industry.
Although the wine industry supports what the EU is trying to do through its new wine reform in order to compete with the New World and create a clear and simple regime, there is a worry over the planting ban in Europe being extended an extra three years to 2013. Although this isn’t a problem at the moment, because the UK is below the threshold of production to be ruled by the restrictions, some estimates suggest that we could reach the limit as early as 2009. This would then stop us from planting any new vines for some four years.
Mike Roberts of the UK Vineyards Association told ThirtyFifty, ‘We’re one of the successful wine-producing countries in the EU and we might be forced not to expand.’ But he added that if the ban must be extended, the industry would be comforted by a cast-iron statement from the EU that the restrictions will end in 2013. Businesses would then be able to do the preparatory work for expansion with certainty, he explained.
The proposed ban on the use of sugar to enrich wines is also likely to have a negative impact on the wine industry in the UK. Without sugar, producers needing to enrich their wines have only the option of grape must, little of which is currently produced in the UK. In the short term, there is the worry that this could up the price of grape must, adding to winemaking costs. But there is the further issue that sugar is, in certain circumstances, deemed a better option and winemakers would prefer to have the choice.
The enrichment matter is compounded because the EU also proposes to reduce the level of permitted enrichment from 3.5 per cent to just two. In certain years and for certain varieties, this could mean UK producers are unable to make the quality of wine they wish, because they need the sugar to bolster up the alcohol levels in order to produce a balanced wine. The UK isn’t alone in this – every wine-producing region from Bordeaux northwards uses enrichment from time to time, said the spokesperson for English Wine Producers.
The EU wine reform proposals are to be presented to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in the autumn, but in the meantime Mike Roberts thinks the UK wine industry should continue to voice its opinion with the hope that something can be done. ‘I don’t think we should let go of the stick. We should still be shaking it,’ he said.