Minister slams EU planting liberalisation

June 20, 2011
The Drinks Business

Bruno Le Maire French Minister for Agriculture, has spoken out against European Union plans to relax grape planting regulations, which he believes will threaten the continent's ability to compete in the global wine market.

In a speech at the official opening of Vinexpo yesterday, Le Maire (left) criticized the current proposals, which will allow an increase in the production of wine grapes across all EU countries.

Arguing that this move would undermine efforts to preserve regional character in wines, as well as having a negative effect on quality, Le Maire also warned his audience of the price collapse that would result from over-production.

"I am against this liberalisation," he stated. "It will not help European and French wine growers to achieve their aim of competing on a world scale with wines of the highest quality. We need a proper grape planting policy for Europe."

As part of his efforts to oppose the proposals, Le Maire revealed he had already won promises of support from Italy, Spain, Germany and Hungary.

The minister also used his speech as an opportunity to speak out against plans to merge the AOC and IGP wine classifications, claiming: "It will undermine all our efforts to improve the offer of European wines."

Instead, Le Maire emphasised the need for European winemakers to focus on producing high quality wines with strong individual characters if they wish to compete effectively with emerging rivals such as Argentina.

While he welcomed the news that France had regained its position as the world's top wine exporter by value, Le Maire also warned of aggressive export promotion from other European countries such as Spain and Italy.

Nevertheless, he spoke in glowing terms of France's work to tap into the export opportunities presented by China, reporting on a recent deal by Castell to provide the country with 30 million bottles of wine per year.

"Wine is a major asset for France and exports will reach 10 million bottles worldwide this year," he concluded. "This is equal in value to exports of the Airbus produced in Toulouse."