The challenges of the CAP reform for GI wines | Interview with Bernard Farges, President of EFOW

The European Commission published its legislative proposal on 1 June, work in the Council is ongoing and the European Parliament’s AGRI Committee is expected to present its draft reports on this subject on 21 November. What are EFOW’s priorities?

The wine sector, and more particularly Geographical Indication (GI) wines, is doing relatively well and remains efficient in a context of agricultural crisis. This is the result of specific instruments at our disposal. It is therefore only natural that our priority should be to maintain and strengthen them as part of the ongoing reform. I am of course referring to wine national support programmes, the planting authorisation scheme and our quality policy. These are the three pillars of our success and we must not jeopardise them but rather consolidate them.

Could you elaborate on EFOW’s suggestions for improvement?

EFOW is largely satisfied with the existence of specific funds for viticulture. This measure has clearly proven its effectiveness, allowing operators to restructure, modernise and invest in the sector, but also to access new markets and better promote their products. We therefore call for the maintenance of this instrument and its current budget, which must be exclusively allocated to viticulture. It is important to review certain aspects, in particular the promotion measure in third countries, which must be long-term as we need time to develop and consolidate a market. Our competitors from the new world have understood this well.

We also want to strengthen the quality policy component. Some of the Commission’s proposals are worrying or not ambitious enough. We must absolutely maintain a solid definition of the PDO concept which does not call into question the essential role that man plays in the production of our wines. We must also be in a position to better defend ourselves against usurpers who wish to weaken and dilute the reputation of our products. That is why we are calling for the introduction of stricter measures on the use of our wines as an ingredient and clearer rules on the protection of our names on the Internet. We have recently made significant progress in simplifying procedures for amending our specifications. We believe that these provisions should be in our basic text – as for other quality sign products  – and not in a secondary text.

Finally, given the essential role that the planting authorisation scheme plays in the positive development of our sector, EFOW considers it crucial to maintain it. This production potential management tool makes it possible to support the growth of the vineyard in line with the development of markets, to maintain quality production and a network of rich wine-growing holdings. We do not see it as a transitional instrument. It is crucial to put back on the table the issue of regulating the economy in agriculture and to extend the lifespan of this tool. 

What do you make of the proposal to create a category of non-alcoholic wines?

EFOW members think this is nonsense. Non-alcoholic wine beverages have been on the market for many years. They did not wait for either the OIV nor the European Union to be produced and marketed. The real question is the interest in including this category of drinks in the future CMO. We are no fools, it is about allowing industrial operators to have access to promotion and investment subsidies from the agricultural budget. However, it should be noted that non-alcoholic wine beverages are processed industrial products which require flavouring in addition to sweetening, to give them a drinkable character. Alcohol plays an essential role in sensory perception. Its elimination inevitably leads to the extraction of all the volatile compounds that are the flavours. The absence of alcohol also makes the wine more acidic and stingy.  For the product not to be perceived as acidic water, these losses must inevitably be compensated by the addition of flavours such as “merlot” or “chardonnay”, and additives. The technique is therefore to remove to later add. The result is an industrial product, of secondary processing, far removed from the agricultural nature of wine. Accepting desalcoholised wines in the CMO means opening Pandora’s box and going towards its recomposition in laboratories.