War is raging between the New World and the Old continent... we're not talking science-fiction here but... wines. Every year in the European Union, imports of wines from the rest of the world are growing by 10%. Europe remains the number 1 producer but the sector is facing a looming crisis,
because consumers are drinking more and more reds and whites from Australia, South Africa or Chile. Brussels has decided to react and help the European wine makers fight the invaders. But the Europeans disagree on the methods...
Transcript of Commentary and Interviews
0-25 wine shop in Brussels
At the heart of Europe, in one of Brussels chic-est shopping areas... Miguel Saelens has opened his world wines' shop 13 years ago. From Slovenia to China, from Australia to France... here, there's a bottle for everyone
Miguel has noticed the growing success of new world wines. Buyers used to be a bit sceptical, now they are interested. Quality is good and the wine is, as he says, « easier to understand ».
25-48 Miguel Saelens, Mig's world wines
New world producers put the client first : what does he want ? What can I do to please him ? Rather than : I'll do my thing, let's hope clients will like it. Sometimes consumers are at a loss with European wines. The labelling is too complex, you don't really know what's in your glass, what's inside the bottle.
48-1'00 Fischer-Boel press conference
The European commissionner for Agriculture is worried. Because of the consumer change of taste, the European wine sector is not doing so well. In Ireland for instance, 70% of the wine that is drunk comes from the New world.
1'00-1'19 Mariann Fischer Boel, EU Commissionner for Agriculture.
What we have seen over the last years is an increase in imports from outside Europe, an increase in domestic production, and a slightly decrease in consumption. If we don't do anything, the sector will really face difficulties. That's obvious !
1'19-1'43 Vineyards / wine production
There are nearly two and a half million wineries in Europe. Thanks to wine exports, France, the biggest wine producing country, earns 6 billions euros every year. This is not a small industry...
So the Danish commissionner has drawn a plan to rescue it. She agrees to pay for promoting European wines abroad but in exchange, she wants a tough reform...
First step, stop overproduction paid by European money..
1'43-1'59 Mariann Fischer-Boel
We have a surplus production of 13 million hectolitres every year. we can't continue to spend money to destroy wine that nobody wants to drink. I cannot defend it in front of the taxpayers.
Brussels wants to uproot 200.000 hectares of vines. But, after a few years, it will be possible for the most competitive wine makers to plant new vineyards freely. The french minister for Agriculture is not keen.
2'15-2'25 Michel Barnier, French minister for Agriculture
Because of this liberalisation, the European wines, not only the French wines, would lose their identity and would be cut from their roots !
2'25-2'54 production of Tokaj wine in Hungary, labels, people tasting.
The European Commission plans to introduce new ways of producing wines. Methods that have been successful in other countries and are currently forbidden in Europe. There's also the idea to make the labels easier to read. Instead of just having the name and area of origin like for instance Bordeaux Saint-Emilion, they would mention the grape variety. Carbernet Sauvignon or Shiraz for instance. The whole reform plan remains very controversial. Defenders of small wine makers fear the changes will not be for the best.
2'54-3'14 Gérard Choplin, European farmers coordination
We're not going to get out of this by copying industrial and globalised wines. We have to put the stress on what makes us different : this European concept of thousand of little “terroirs” , that's what we should put forward. We shouldn't do something that will make those responsible for this heritage disappear.
3'14-3'25 Brussels 'wine shop
But in his shop in Brussels, Miguel remains optimistic. According to him, there's room for all kinds of wines. Some European producers are already offering different products.
3'25-3'44 Miguel Saelens, Mig's world wines
It's not a question of doing this OR that, but this AND that. Wine makers should take the client's wishes into account, should try to seduce young people. But at the same time we have to be strict with terms of controlled origin so that their quality and specificity are protected.
3'44- 4'00 Friends drinking together
What's more important : the Art of living or the logic of the free market ? To solve the issue, the discussions between the 27 European Union member states will last at least till the end of the year.