And now… Euro-wine
The European Commission have dreamed up one of their invidious ‘five-year plans’ (everything in the EU is subject to this fermentation period), which consists of ploughing up 200,000 hectares of excess vines, and pushing subsidies toward marketing instead of price guarantees. Presently, Europe's wine sector receives an annual subsidy of €1.3 billion, which is used largely to distil unwanted alcohol into industrial products such as cleaning fluid. While some may say that this is all French wine is good for, it is undeniable that the EU is lagging behind the commercial practices of the New World. Imports into the EU from countries like Chile and Australia have risen by 10 per cent each year since 1996, which amounts to more than doubling in a decade. Rather like the CFP, which demands that perfectly edible undersized fish be returned to the seas to rot, excess wine production is already a burden on EU coffers to the tune of €0.5 billion a year – that is the cost of disposing of the surplus wine for which there is no market. It is simply poured down the lavatory.
The Commission proposes to end all subsidy linked to surpluses. The EU will simply no longer buy up surplus wine, placing the onus on the manufacturers to sell what they produce. What a marvellously innovative concept…
In order to reinvigorate the market by making EU wine less expensive, the expert vintners of the European Commission are proposing to ban the use of sugar in wine manufacture, which is traditionally used to increase the alcohol content. The exhortation will be to use unfermented grape juice instead, which is cheaper by a third. But this will see an interesting spat between the Roman Catholic south and the Protestant north. Southern vintners, who enjoy sunny weather for most of the year, back the idea, while northern vintners are against the ban. Climactic factors have considerable impact on the ultimate product. But a sugar ban will be a certain problem for France, the world's largest winemaker. Champagne producers, based in France's most northerly Appellation Controlée area, have a long tradition of adding sugar.
As long as Cranmer’s Eucharist remains as palatable as it presently is, the European Commission can proceed with this CAP reform to its hearts content. But how the famously militant French farmers will react to the proposals remains to be seen.