Wine in vineyard

Major European wine producers will be allowed to increase their wine growing areas by 1% annually from next January under new rules issued this week by the EC.

The move follows an independent study that found the EU was continuing to lose market share in the global wine market despite growth in the volume and value of its wine exports to non-EU countries. It also said worldwide consumption of wine would increase in the next ten years while falling in the EU – increasing producers’ dependence on exports.

EU commissioner for agriculture and rural development Phil Hogan said the new system would provide flexibility for the European wine sector to gradually expand production, in response to growing world demand.

The current rules, in place since 2008, prevent countries such as France, Italy and Spain from planting additional vines without taking the equivalent area out of use from existing plantings. Under the new system, those EU member states will get a national allocation for new plantings and the option to apply their own limits at regional level or on areas with or without geographical indications. The rules do not apply to small wine producers such as the UK.

Thierry Coste, chairman of Copa-Cogeca’s wine working party called the changes “a good step forward”. He added that the new rules would “enable the sector to continue to grow at the same time as recognizing the need to protect wines with geographical indication against fraud and imitation”.

The move was “encouraging”, said Justin Knock, winemaking consultant at bottler Encirc Wines: “The moratorium on new plantings over the past decade has been very effective and, vintage variation aside, there seems to be no persistent EU-wide wine lake that has plagued European production in the past.

“What’s more, the timing for this change is excellent. The strength in demand for premium wines from regions like Burgundy, where volumes have dropped in recent vintages, has pulled through demand for Chardonnay from satellite regions and other parts of France to the point that it is now in near undersupply. Similarly, strong demand for Provence rosé wines and Prosecco globally in the past five years shows no signs of abating and we know prices for grapes and wine have been rising in both areas in the face of very tight supply.”

Knock added that it made good sense to take steps to alleviate such stresses, but believed it would be three to five years before the industry started to see any impact on supply.

”The key challenge for the EU will be the decision framework that determines which areas can be planted,” he said. ”There is sure to be strong interest across many EU member states, and it will be interesting to see whether they favour well-known regions or emerging ones.”