The German wine industry has expressed concern that a decision to lift planting restrictions across the European Union will undermine efforts to end over-production and improve quality.
Vineyards in Germany’s Nahe Valley
Under changes to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which were announced at the end of June, current restrictions on wine planting rights will cease at the end of 2015.
Instead, countries within the EU will be allowed to increase their vineyard planting by up to 1% each year until 2030, when the system will be reviewed once more.
Describing this move as “the biggest question in the German wine world at the moment”, Steffen Schindler, marketing director for the German Wine Institute, said: “At last we are in a situation with no over-production but this would threaten that position.”
Likewise, Schindler expressed concern that the decision could undermine German’s recent success in raising its prices. With total exports in 2012 worth €321 million, the country’s average price rose by 8.4% to reach €2.46 per litre.
Of these total 2012 exports, 78% were defined as “quality” wines, a category that achieved a higher average price of €2.70 per litre.
“We’re afraid it will expand production in places where grape growing is easy,” commented Schindler, suggesting that few of Germany’s most prestigious wine regions would be likely to take up the new planting rights. “I don’t see the future for Germany in mass production – other countries can do that better,” he said.
Noting the widespread opposition to these changes from Europe’s other major producers of high quality wine, Schindler observed: “It was mainly pushed through by non-producing countries who want wine to be treated like all other agricultural products but we think that wine requires different legislation.”
Supporters for the lifting of planting restrictions had criticised them as an anachronism that was hindering European wine producers in the global marketplace.
Among those who welcomed the move was the Brussels-based Comité Européean des Enterprices Vins (CEEV), which represents more than 7,000 wine-related businesses in the EU.
When the initial decision to establish a more liberal framework for vineyard planting was agreed in December 2012, CEEV secretary general José Ramón Fernàndez declared: “The level for new plantings growth should allow the EU wine sector to maintain and even increase its market share at a global level.”