European Union Looks to Deepen Its Wine Lake
This morning, over coffee and a wonderfully crisp apple, I read through the headlines from the various RSS feeds that come through my inbox. Among the articles that caught my eye was a piece posted by Decanter this past Sunday. The short article, Wine Regions Oppose ‘Catastrophic’ EU Expansion Plans, highlights efforts from within the European Union to expand vineyard areas throughout the continent – even into regions and countries that do not currently produce wine.
Producers in prominent winemaking countries are crying foul over the plans. They believe that expansion of vineyard areas will drive grape prices even lower than current levels. Many winemakers are still suffering depressed crop prices from the Great Recession. And for those winemakers with products in the lower end of the pricing spectrum, their brands would be most hurt by the competition. Though I am no defender of $7 table wine from France or Spain, I can’t help but side with those who are against the proposed expansion for a very simple reason – wine shops and restaurant wine lists are already full of substandard, mass produced wine-like products. Do we really need to add to the overflowing wine lake that’s full of the likes of Red Bicylette, Lulu and Blue Nun?
For those unaware of how much wine is really in the market, consider this tidbit – each year, Europe distills an eye opening amount of wine into neutral spirits as these grapes do not measure up to the quality standards for even the factory assembled brands stacked in your neighborhood discounter. And the EU thinks adding vines will enhance their competitiveness in the market? We need less wine, not more wine! Unless I am missing something, I can’t help but shake my head and suggest that the EU decreases the quantity of vines already planted and increase the quality of winemaking through less expensive and more efficient methods. They already have the raw materials for competing with the sugar-laden schlock from other behemoths like Yellowtail and Woodbridge, they simply need to learn how to make their assembly line more efficient.
As for a sense of place, it’s unclear if new vineyards planted in regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja and the Mosel will be allowed to use those appellations on their labels. I certainly hope not as there are already enough backwater vineyard sites within the best wine regions. Many offerings coming from these inferior sites are already clogging the market and misleading the consumers into buying wines that lack any semblance of personality and character. With any luck, officials in the EU will come to their senses and abandon this expansion proposal, but based on the ineffectiveness of European leaders to stem the current financial crisis on the other side of the pond, I wouldn’t count on it.