Fruit Wine Reform in Europe…Yeah!

Interesting times in the fruit wine industry in Europe. Let’s hope bureaucracy will not ruin things for those of us that feel that a wine can be a wine whether it is made from apples, grapes or peaches…

BRUSSELS, Belgium –

Following protests from Germany and northern nations, “wine” made from apples and berries could survive the reform of the European Union’s bloated wine sector, officials said Monday.

Makers of fruit wines, which represent only a small part of the overall sector, have raised loud protests since the EU Commission proposed restricting the definition of wine to grapes, in line with international convention.

“We are fully aware of the political importance of the issue,” EU farm spokesman Michael Mann said.

But Germany, which has a traditional “apple wine” industry, thinks it will become a victim by omission. “Apfelwein,” a cider-like brew, is specifically popular in and around Germany’s financial center, Frankfurt.

In the German state of Hessen, the issue has even been taken up by politicians ahead of January elections. State governor Roland Koch said he was “outraged” by the EU reform plan, calling it “regulatory madness in Brussels.”

Mann stressed there were still two meetings of EU farm ministers to be held before the issue would be solved, and promised “we will do everything we can to come to compromise.”

He said the Commission wanted the definition of wine to be in line with international convention.

“If you look at the definition of the international wine organization, the central definition of wine is that it is a product from grapes. It was an attempt to give more coherence,” he said.

The Commission wants to reform its 1.3 billion euros ($1.9 billion) budget to make Europe more competitive in the world market in the face of decreasing consumption at home and an increasing appetite for New World wines.

It proposes grubbing up part of the vineyards, reducing the practice of turning unwanted wine into industrial alcohol and ending the practice of using sugar to jack up the alcohol content. All these issues have raised problems with vintners and member states alike.

The Commission wants to avoid additional dispute over a small issue like apple wines.

“We will try to find a pragmatic solution,” Mann said.

European parliamentarian Michael Gaehler from Hessen welcomed the change in tone. “The Commission appears to realize there is a problem.” But he added “we have to keep the pressure on.”

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