Thursday, July 05, 2007

Europe 'Liquidating' Surplus Wine

If this article sounds silly to you, remember that the lunacy stems from the EU's appointed role as the backer of the private market for wine. That's not all that different from US policies on sugar, peanuts, and dairy products:

Europe’s wine lake will be drained and millions of its vines uprooted in an effort to tackle the onslaught from producers in the New World, under plans unveiled on Wednesday by Brussels.

Mariann Fischer Boel, the farm commissioner, said sweeping reforms would put European wine “back ... on top of the world” by driving out the worst quality table wines.

The European Union still produces and consumes more than two-thirds of the world’s wine. But imports from Australia, the US, Chile and others have displaced traditional winemakers, especially in the budget range.

While Britain has become the top importer, its drinkers opt for the well-marketed and dependable New World brands. Consumption in traditional producers such as Italy and France is slumping, unwanted wine being turned into industrial alcohol...

The commissioner has proposed 5 per cent of Europe’s vineyards – 200,000 [hectares] – be pulled up in a voluntary scheme. Some €120m a year will be used to promote wine, and there will be a ban on adding sugar, used to strengthen wine in northern countries.

I've drunk wine that tasted like industrial alcohol -- but I don't think it was from France...

In a private, unregulated market, farmers could grow -- and vintners produce -- whatever consumers wanted. Would it be so terrible if Europe imported more wine, or the US more sugar?

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