On December 19, after a hard-fought battle, the twenty-seven EU member states and the European Commission reached an agreement that upholds the regulatory instruments so dear to the wine-producing countries:
> chaptalization (the process of adding sugar to increase alcohol content
> distillation of surplus wine (which represents one third of the budget for wine and planting rights)
> the national land area devoted to vineyards, and specifically the question of grubbing up
> labeling for table wines
Initially, the European Commission had hoped to better allocate the funds intended for the wine-making sector so as to avoid the waste caused by overproduction and help improve the sector's competitiveness, particularly with regard to Australian, American and South African wines.
As a result of the negotiations, chaptalization and distillation of surplus wine were upheld. Planting rights will not be abolished until 2015. The grubbing-up program was reduced from 400,000 hectares to 175,000 hectares, and it will now be permissible for the labels of table wines to include information about vintage and grape variety, as with the top wines.
Furthermore, the European funds allocated to the winemaking sector will be distributed in the form of national packages, which will be increased through 2015. The wine-producing member states will also be able to regulate their own offerings through marketing rules.
"This is not exactly what I wanted," admitted Mariann Fischer Boël, Agriculture Commissioner for the European Union. Certainly, the European Commission was forced to "water down its wine."
French Minister of Agriculture Michel Barnier, for his part, was pleased with the outcome of the negotiations, seeing it as successfully "preserving tools to control and regulate the market."