Friday, July 20, 2007

EU: crises in the making

I’ve been reading a good post for the past few days by Alder over at Vinography about the EU and the continuing struggle they are going through to try to modernize their OIV winemaking regulations…and it got me to thinking…how many of us even know what it is they’re trying to do?

I’ve posted on the topic several times in the past, both about how they’re trying to get people off of the “crisis distillation” crutch they’ve latched onto in recent years due to over production of “table wine”, and also about how they need to update their winemaking methods to remain competitive…

Firstly, I’ve got to say that Alder’s got a great handle on it:

”I am a firm believer in the market, in case you couldn't tell, and it's incredibly difficult for me to understand how some people (including many readers of this blog) think that by lifting, shifting, or changing restrictions and regulations to allow EU states to better compete in the world market, somehow all the good wine will go away. As if allowing vintners to add acid to their wines or use a higher percentage of Merlot will suddenly cause those winemakers who are making fantastic wine (that everyone wants to buy right now) completely change their practices to produce shite that tastes like it was churned out of a Star Trek synthesizer.”

Amen, Brother!

He’s right, the issue isn’t about destroying the small volume of great wines at the top of the production pyramid, but rather about allowing producers to practice a deeper bit of elevage on the large “table wine” sector which continues to pull everyone under the surface of the proverbial wine lake to drown with them. Yes, once placed into the Codex Alimentarius of the EU those practices will probably be available to all who wish to utilize them…but why on earth would the people already getting better than €100/btl bother with that? So they could improve their return from €96.40/btl to €97.00/btl, and risk losing that segment of the market which is so enamored with the tradition, the “soul” of wine if you will, which was willing to pay the €100/btl in the first place?

No, that’s not going to happen…not even at the €50/btl range, and for several good reasons…

Primarily among those restraining factors is the very fabric of the EU society, and its cognizance of where wine is within it’s own (EU) cultural context: wine is both a common and uncommon commodity to them. Common in the degree to which it is found, yet uncommon in how it is placed - nay “revered” is a better term – above almost any other product in terms of “nobility”, “aristocracy”, “purity”, “history”, etc.

And that is also the reason that even though these reforms have been introduced and discussed for the past 3~4years, there has been little in the way of headway for a firm acceptance by all member states.

The comments are heating up a bit at his site, and it's worth a read.

I'm drafting a post on the actual reforms to post this weekend with a bit deeper the meantime: Go Alder! Go!


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