Why we should support plans to lift restrictions on EU vineyard planting

There’s a news story on Decanter at the moment concerning plans by the EU to lift the ban on new planting of vineyards.

Wine regions throughout Europe are opposing plans for what they see as a ‘catastrophic expansion’.

But I think that this liberaliazation of planting rights is largely a good thing for wine.

At the moment, there is a ban on planting new vineyards. If you find a potentially great terroir, you can only plant it if you get planting rights, which means that you have to jump through several official hoops in order to plant your new vineyard (either by buying a vineyard and grubbing up the vines, or by buying someone else’s planting rights), with a significant added expense.

The logic is that the world currently has an oversupply of wine. Therefore it makes sense to restrict the planting of new vineyards, and in an effort to redress the supply/demand imbalance, provide incentives for removing existing vineyards.

But this is the wrong way to think. Currently, a lot of cheap wine is made that has no home. Most of it is filthy stuff. Even if the planting rights were to remain, this would still be filthy stuff, made by people with little talent for winemaking from terroirs with little talent for making good wine.

Protectionist policies such as the EU restriction on new vineyard plantings might sound fine in theory, but in practice they are always a mistake. We should allow anyone who wants to a chance to plant terroirs they think have potential for making good wine. After all, planting a new vineyard incurs significant expense. People won’t do it on a whim. It’s a long-term commitment.

If they should succeed in making great wine, and (more challenging) finding a market for it, that has to be a good thing. If the existing growers who struggle to sell their wine (most of which is filthy) go out of business, that is sad for them, but good for the image of European wine.

EU protectionism sucks, to be honest. It does no one any good, in the long term, propping up producers who make wine that no one wants. After all, the Chileans and South Africans and Australians and Californians  are busy taking European market share, and they are largely free of this sort of official burden that European winegrowers struggle with. The European wine producers need to improve the quality of their wines or get out of the business, not try to protect their untenable position through legal means.

Europe needs to set its winegrowers free to make better and more competitive wines by easing the legislative load on them and encouraging them to be more entrepreneurial.

Let’s make an analogy with wine writing. Currently, we are told, there are too many wine writers and not enough work to go round them all. What should be done about it? The EU-style solution would be a ban new wine writers (we already have enough), and perhaps some system of allocating work to existing writers. Those who failed to get enough commissions would be allowed to apply for subsidies to pay their rent and heating bills. Would this improve the quality of wine writing? Of course not. We should do nothing, and we should welcome the newcomers, because competition is good for all of us.

27 comments to Why we should support plans to lift restrictions on EU vineyard planting

  • Spot on, Mr Goode, well said. And since you used the word ‘filthy’ several times I could not have put it better myself. Keep up the right-thinking work!

  • Jeremy Seysses

    Jamie,

    You’re argument rotates around the phrase “We should allow anyone who wants to a chance to plant terroirs they think have potential for making good wine.”

    Do you really think the first areas that will get planted will be those with the best potential to make good wine? That personnally strikes me as very naive. The people with the financial and commercial backing to plant massive areas with vines are those who are already big and have the distribution channels. My guess is that this would generate a massive increase in “industrial wine”. Certainly not in the authentic wines you champion.

    And in the AOC/AOP system, this would result in massive extensions in the planted areas of AOCs that were not fully replanted post-phylloxera. Most people would agree that any number of those AOCs were larger than was reasonable. For example, discussing with Emmanuel Darnaud, best known, for his quality Crozes Hermitage production, liberalization of planting would result in a tripling of the surface of Crozes. Do you now think that there is the strong likelihood of seeing a massave crash in the price of Crozes, even for those making great wines? And Crozes is only so expensive to farm, being mostly flat and workable by tractor, but with few exceptions, growers on the terraces of St Joseph already are struggling to sell at prices where they can make a living. The cost of farming on terraces is ludicrously high. Extending the plantings would do nothing to improve the situation.

    I certainly do not support EU and government subsidies that allow producers of inferior wine to survive for much longer than they should. The liberalizing of plantings in the EU, however, would not increase the amount of fine wine coming to market. It would result in far more cheap wine coming to market. This would undoubtedly be to the advantage of consumers of industrial wine (or “filth” as David would no doubt refer to it), but I think it would result in a narrowing of the offer to lovers of fine wine.

    It may seem like there are vineyards of potential in all sorts of places. Getting planting rights is really not that hard. I could buy Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire for less than 2,000 euros a hectare, grub it up and go plant a hectare almost anywhere I wanted. And I suspect that you could buy vineyard land in other regions for less than that. It slows down the big companies, but not the small driven vigneron, believe me.

  • Thanks Jeremy for that reasoned post – good perspective there.

  • Ed Masciana

    Interesting argument on both sides, but I have to go with the main article. First of all, it puts Europeans at a disadvantage with other countries with no ban. And, the argument that it takes so much time and money to bring a new vineyard on board that you better know what the hell you’re doing before you take on that kind of expense and effort.

    My only question is, “Are there really terroirs out there that haven’t been found?” The Europeans have been doing this for a very long time. I would find it hard to believe that there really is another Musigny, Pauillac, Chateauneuf du Pape, Ribera Del Duero or Barolo out there that nobody knows about.

  • OK, I’ll give this a go.

    Restrictions on vineyard planting are an easy way to buy votes from loathsome people who want the government to pay them an unreal price for producing staggering quantities of filth so evil it is not only undrinkable, not only shames the good name of Europe’s wine, but actually tarnishes all of humanities achievements. Look at the dregs in Germany, France, Italy, etc and it is clear those vine growers shouldn’t get any subsidies but only get what the market will pay for their dross – I don’t think freshly grubbed up vines fetch much as firewood. Protectionism and mutual back-scratching only serve the unscrupulous.

    However, simply allowing anyone to plant anything anywhere is also a questionable move as far as the image of quality wine goes. Some massive companies will have the cash to plant staggering amounts of appalling rubbish in places of such lacklustre quality that even people from Peterborough would find them rather distasteful to visit. All of this crap would then be sold to Gallo as Pinot Noir, or pumped into some other tawdry brand, and Europe will once again be seen as a bunch of corrupt cheats whose claims of aesthetic sophistication and fine wine production seem somewhat mendacious.

    So now I’ve got to come up with a compromise solution. Bums. That is difficult… Ok, how about this:

    The thing about European wine that, I hope, seems to be the world’s view is that it is a quality product with a history of being so. This image is not only nice, but also can be a real earner if, when an average middle-class Chinese chap buys European wine, it does taste better than Chinese five animal penis wine (which is worse than it sounds). He and his chums will want more of this top kit and we’ll actually earn real money from exporting things from Europe.

    Cut subsidies, cut planting restrictions, anyone can plant anything anywhere. However, if you wanted to grow grapes to be made into wine you have to be licensed to do so, and the same goes for making the wine. To earn a license you have to submit documents detailing your vineyards’ locality and makeup, the exact types if vine planted in what configuration at what density and a detailed spec of viticultural techniques that will be employed. If these are not up to scratch or you get caught lying then you lose your license, your grapes get sent for industrial distillation and, whilst you can still own the vineyard, you have to get a licensed viticulturalist to run it if you want to make anything other than paint thinner. Naturally winemakers would also be assessed in a similar manner and before being allowed to be sold a wine would have to be tasted to see if it matches the regional and quality standards it wants for its labels. Anything that doesn’t live up to the standard is rejected and distilled and the winemaker loses his license.

    Who assesses the wines and vineyard selection and management techniques? Not, really NOT the winemakers’ next door neighbours or other members of any regional clique who’ll pass your Ugni Blanc as Montrachet if you let them sell their cows’ piss as Grand Cru Chablis.

    Safe-guarding your country’s image is a demanding and noble thing to be doing so skilled, passionate wine professionals who don’t grow or make would work. They could be academic viticulturalists, professional wine buyers, experienced critics or anyone who can show the passing off Grenache as Grand Cru Burgundy is not going to net them a pile of fun tokens. These would be powerful, influential jobs and so open for people to compete for by demonstrating their qualifications, experience and financial disconnection from the area they want to work in.

    To ensure these judges are paid well and they are committed to quality their income is directly derived from selling the grapes and wines they fail to approve for distilling into rocket fuel. Only pass a few of the very best with the most rigorous standards in growing and making and fail most others and you get paid more than letting everything through.

    That’s the best I can manage in 15 minutes furious typing, I’m afraid (sorry if my spelling and grammar have been shockingly bad), but it *might* work as some approximation of a compromise that at least has ideas of protecting authenticity, quality and skill at its core.

    Thank you and goodnight!
    David.

  • I’ve written on my blog in numerous occasions that I’m favourable to liberalisation of planting rights, and as far as I know I’m the only wine producer that supports this policy. The only reason to keep this system was because EU policy was focused on the control of the offer in order to control prices, by mean of subsidising distillation of surplus, etc. This policy has failed to deliver the expected results and has finally been scrapped (a EU report states that very clearely). No subsidies for over production, no need to keep the offer under control. Why vines should be different from most of other crops, or indeed other products? Are vinegrovers more stupid than other entrepreneurs to put their money where there is no business? Let the people decide how to risk their money.
    Yes, the planting rights for generic appellations aren’t high now (but I reccalled having paid 10,000 euros per hectar not many years ago, not exactly a token payment) but they are extremely expensive for sought after appellations, from € 30k up to 500k per hectars. They wont be touched by the liberalisations because, at least in Italy, there is a way to “temporarily” close an appellation when it is believed (by growers) that prices are falling. Many appellations, the best ones, are “temporarily” closed since 20 or more years ago. Now, that means that many poor vineyards, planted in poor places before the closure of the appellation, can produce grapes, and potentially good places, managed by potentially good growers aren’t allowed. Wouldn’t it be better to re-design the appellation geographical perimeters, with strict conditions for planting vineyards according to the quality of the site, but leave the possibility for anyone to plant within these limits, rather than just favour those people that have the only merit of planted vineyards earlier than others? I dont think tha freedom is something to be afraid for, and merit should come before of anything else.

  • Oh yes, it goes without saying that the position of life president of the Burgundy tasting panel is most definitely MINE! I’ll do Champagne as well if I have the time…

    David.

  • Since I still haven’t managed to fall asleep it’s either worrying about moving tomorrow or guilt that’s plaguing me. So I’ll unburden myself and take this opportunity to apologise to the people of Peterborough who I was so rude about. After all, it’s the city where I entered the world. Woolwich is an even more disgusting pit of festering feculence and so vastly more worthy of offhand abuse than even your putrid abscess of a locality which at least has a totally brilliant, stunningly beautiful cathedral with grounds that are home to the most impressively vast collection of drug needles I’ve ever nervously tried not to step on. I’ve lived near one and in the other and so profound are my memories of both that I’m joyful to be far away from them and never want to say their names again, let alone direct torrents of unhinged invective at them because I’m far too wound up to sleep.

    No, that apology didn’t settle my nerves in the slightest. It must be the move bothering me and there’s very little I can do about that at this time of the morning… Hmmm… maybe I can go to another blog I really like written by someone I respect who I’ll perturb by leaving different but also rambling comments that’ll make no one want to speak to me ever again. Maybe I’ll have my pills first.

    Goodnight,
    David.

  • Planting rights were introduced to control wine offer in the hope of controlling price and demand. It hasn’t worked, that is the result of several reports commissioned by the EU. Distillation subsidies, aids for explanting, followed by aids for replanting, and so on, have failed and these tools are now being phased out. Rightly so.
    It is believed that agriculture needs a special control from Euro-bureaucracy than other sectors. Maybe they think that farmers are particularly thick and like to waste their money investing in businesses, like wine, that require a lot of capital and have a slow and uncertain returns. Same things can be applied to the big companies: why should they invest millions in new vineyards if they can buy wine cheaper than water?
    So why liberalize the sector? Because in this industry there are a lot of young, good farmers that could and want to invest their lives in making wines. The cost of planting right might be low now, just because everyone is expecting them to be lifted, but I remember very well having paid € 10.000 per Ha not long ago. Not exactly cheap, when you are making 10-20 Ha.
    But this is not the only problem. There are ways to control the prestigious appellations in a even stricter, and more unfair, way. In Italy (I’m not sure if the same applies to France, but I suspect so) the growers can request a special “temporary” closure of the appellation, when the market proves to be unstable and prices are going south. The only problem is that such a “temporary” closure is in place in many areas for more than 10-20 years. Some vineyards that aren’t planted in particularly good sites are protected, new vineyards aren’t allowed (or are allowed if you can buy that specific planting right for that particular appellation. Prices vary between € 30.000 up to € 500.000, according to the appellation).
    I think it’s unfair and I think it’s wrong. All effort should be devoted in mapping the best sites for each appellation, reducing the areas where vineyards cannot be planted, ensuring that only the best places are used, maybe helping those who have vineyards in poorly sites to uproot them and relocate them or giving help to exit the industry, but leave everyone the chance to try. This situation is only aimed to protecting the existing status-quo and not at raising the quality or giving a prize to those who deserve it.
    There is a lot of silence on this in the industry, no one likes to explain this to the public.

  • Jeremy Seysses

    Jamie,
    Thank you for the welcome.

    Giampaolo,
    I’m surprised that planting rights are considered much of a hindrance in Italy as many growers seem to overlook them with great ease. Over 50% of Europe’s undeclared plantings are in Italy.
    While the idea that there are great areas that are not currently planted is appealing, in the French AOC system, and probably in much of the Italian IGP and DOCG system, the truth is that the greatest areas have probably already been recognized.
    The idea that worthy young farmers can’t start without the liberalizing of vineyards is simply untrue. There are plenty of areas where young vignerons ARE starting, and it only costs so much. Look at the cost of vineyards (and I only know France on this topic) in areas like the Beaujolais, Loire Valley, Rhone Valley, and almost all of the South of France. Even in expensive Burgundy, a number of micro-negociants (e.g. Ray Walker’s Maison Ilan, Andrew Nielsen’s Le Grappin, et al.) and micro-growers (e.g. David Clark, Domaine Dublère, Sylvain Pataille, and others) have started up with success. The idea that you ought to be allowed to grub up a potato patch and plant vineyards and sell it as great wine, which a number of current “vin de table” essentially are, is unconvincing.

    And yes, large companies can buy wine cheap, but again, I think it is naive to think that they don’t want to buy it even cheaper. What do you think is driving the extension of Champagne? Who stands to benefit the most? The big negociant houses who are seeing a tightening in supply and a rise in prices, something that has very much been benefitting the small growers of Champagne.

    I do not want more EU control. But I think that it makes sense for that an great vineyard that gets discovered or extended, some third rate vineyard get pulled out and replanted to its best use, be it potatoes, wheat or forest. That the trading of planting rights be facilitated would be by far a superior option.

    David,
    Your suggestion of an independent authority assessing a wine’s rights to an AOC or equivalent is actually already in place, but has its limits. Growers have understandably wanted to avoid any requirement of typicity. With notions of typicity, you would run the risk of seeing 100% of the 2003 vintage rejected in many regions, for instance. And if you went for a dictatorial system, you can end up with someone like Robert Parker for Bordeaux encouraging as many wines as possible as fitting the template of Cheval Blanc 1947, i.e. residual sugar, high VA and mucho booze.

    Current authorities in Burgundy are in charge of rejecting faulty wines and to leave it at that. From a consumer standpoint, that is not enough, but consumers do have the option of turning to wine writers, quality bloggers and other sources of information before buying. Knowledge is power.

  • Jeremy. I think that I must live in a different country other than Italy then, because I can only recall with anxiety all the tons of paper that I had to produce (not to mention the € 200.000 or so in planting rights for 20 Ha) to plant even half an hectare of vineyards, and the dozens of controls and visits by the authorities that this simple action has triggered. By the way, it is worth mentioning that all this red tape generated by very simple and natural things, like planting a vine in your own soil with your own money, cost the taxpayers a lot of resources, which we could all do well by saving for something more serious.
    I still fail to understand the rationale by which large companies should bother with investing quite substantial amount of money by planting vineyards (at a cost of € 40/50.000 per hectare, in the best scenario) when they can buy wine for € 30/40 per Hl (100 L.) without having to put the capital in place and manage the vineyards and with the possibility to pull off at any moment if things go wrong. Yes, in places like Champagne it would be worth having vineyards, but, as I mentioned, those appellation will be spared by liberalisation, they are protected under a different set of laws. One thing is planting IGT or Vin de Pays, and another thing is planting an AOC or DOC/G, if list are closed (like most of those worth something are).
    So, in the end, what are we talking about here? Only and exclusively self conservation of bureaucracy at EU, State and local level and some possible mechanism of defense of the status quo by people that really haven’t learned the lesson of what happen and what is happening in the world.
    David. Yes, it’s true, those expert panels already are in place (at AOC – DOC/G levels) and they are a disaster. I dont think you guarantee anything except the origin of a wine, really, but that should be enough, provided that the appellation are designed with quality in mind, and not political reasons.

  • Jeremy Seysses

    Giampaolo,

    The statistics I quoted are those of Onivin a few years back and I was not making them up. Look at how much Angelo Gaja planted in the Bolgheri and ask him if he had planting rights right from the start. I think they came second, if at all. But I am certain that you are right in syaing that if you want to do things by the rules, there is more red tape than one would think possible. Believe me, I am not a fan of red tape by any means.

    So yes, there would be a difference between AOC and IGT. I still think that the big guys would carry all the wait in the AOC system and get pas any freeze that exists. To go back to Northern Rhone example, I think that the big players would have no problems promising suppliers that planting massively will be in their interest and subsequently using the plentiful offer to drive prices down while exclaiming “not my fault, I hadn’t seen this coming!”.

    As to why large producers would want to plant seemingly costly vineyards when they can buy wine for cheap, I would suggest that you look at places where planting rights are liberalized, such as California or other New World countries. Believe me, labor is not cheap in California, so that is not where they are making savings. No, it’s just the case that in a fertile place on flat highly mechanizable land, with irrigation in a sunny climate, you can make a lot of cheap wine easily. This would finish putting out of business many a small grower who is currently scraping by. How much sympathy one has for this grower is up for debate, I concede.

    I completely understand your point and your frustrations with the Eurocrats. I do not enjoy them any more than you do. I consider that €200.000 to plant 20 ha is not extortionate: 20ha is a lot of land for a new grower to plant in one go and I think the sum would provide a strong incentive for anyone thinking to plant somewhere to think long and hard at just how good this piece of land is.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. As neither of us is in a position to decide of such matters, we can still shake hands cordially the day we meet!

  • Well spoken Gianpaolo, you seem to be the only one with his feet on the ground. Sorry, David and Jeremy, but you seem to be off in the land of suppositions and fantasy! I’m the second wine-maker that supports the abolition of planting rights. €2000/ha may seem trivial to some, but I for one can’t afford it.
    I don’t think there’s much point speculating on what the multi-nationals will do, or if the market will be flooded with cheap wine, or whatever. No-one is ever right before the facts, and everyone says ‘I told you so’ after the facts! In a supposedly free-market economy there should not be such a thing as ‘planting rights’ and if the market is flooded with cheap wine, so be it – you don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to!!!

  • Hey Jamie,

    I believe the current EU legislation does not attempt to ban new entrants to the market (as in your wine writer analogy) but rather to address the issue of oversupply and poor wine quality. Perhaps a tad idealistic and impractical but in its essence it forces wine producers to make better quality wines from their existing vineyards. I am also not a believer of poor terroir. “Filthy wine” is most often the result of poor viticultural practices; poor canopy management, overcropping, virused planting material, lack of soil management etc. In the cellar these flaws are exacerbated by unhygienic and / or archaic vinification techniques. In a nut-shell, I am convinced that perfectly good wine can be made from quality fruit. On the concept of great terroirs I believe this to be an über subjective notion and how do we really know when the site is truly great… 5 , 10 years? The French have needed 500 years to determine this and even in its current form the AOC is a legislative minefield. Also planting new vineyards seems counter-productive when the EU has so many distressed regions where established vineyards can be picked up for a song! The Roussillon springs to mind here. Michel Chapoutier is a great proponent of this approach and has managed to expand his portfolio (and production) without new plantings. Perhaps the EU need to look to South Africa where national vineyard hectarage has remained stagnant for the past 10 years yet wine quality has improved exponentially. Thanks jamie for willing to stick your neck out and have an opinion. Cheers

  • Jeremy Seysses

    Fabio,

    It’s not that €2000/ha, or €10000, to take Giampaolo’s original number, seems trivial, it’s that planting a vineyard should never be trivial and that I understand that beginning a business takes money and risks. I don’t expect to get it for nothing. Getting things for free is the land of fantasy and supposition, a world of which you seem keen not to be a member.

    No, I quite understand your position. It is that of someone who wishes to expand with little cost so as to minimize his exposure and risk. What happens to entire growing areas and many existing growers is unimportant as you reason that if they are good enough, they’ll survive. Look back at the development of appellations and you will see that your views are hopelessly dreamy. The big guys always win. And your saying “No-one is ever right before the facts, and everyone says ‘I told you so’ after the facts!” is one of the most preposterous things I have heard in years. It supposes that planning or thinking about the consequences of an act was a waste of time. Hypothesizing about consequences is something valid that should be done by anyone who is a decision maker.

    Giampaolo’s arguments were reasoned and well made. Yours are emotional and ultimately fall flat. I leave you in your world of fantasy.

  • Jeremy,
    I think we have some misunderstandings here. First, starting a vineyard: of course I don’t expect anything for nothing! I expect to get what I pay for. And I don’t see why anyone who wants to start a vineyard should pay for ‘planting rights’. No other business has this (haircut rights?, restaurant rights?, footwear rights?).

    Exposure and risk. I’m perfectly capable of assessing my own exposure and risk thank you, and it’s up to me to decide how to do it and how much to spend on it. I want to expand with the appropriate fair and true cost that is required. I just don’t want to pay an arbitrary unnecessary ‘planting right’.

    Big guys. They will always be there, but I believe that we small quality producers are in a different market. We’re not competing with them at all. So as far as I’m concerned they can produce as many millions of cheap table wine as they like. Our customers are not going to be buying it. And in the long-term it’s beneficial for us, because as table wine drinkes grow up and acquire better taste, they’ll surely switch to quality wine.

    Decision-makers. Yes, quite! I believe that the decision makers at EU or region policy level have other interests or criteria in mind other than looking out for the welfare of small quality wine producers! We don’t have lobbies, or any way to influence the decision-makers.

    I don’t think my arguments were emotional at all, perhaps just too quickly and not very clearly expressed. I assure you that I am well rooted in the real world, where ‘big guy’ policies are hurting me and making life harder, economically, for me than is necessary. Removing the ‘planting rights’ payment would be levelling the playing field a bit.

  • Well, I don’t really want this debate to become inflammatory, a lot of reasonable things have been said from all sides and nobody has to agree on others’ positions, we all have our ideas.
    But I think that ultimately there is a central point to this debate that should emerge: why vineyards and wine making require planting rights and a special legislation to isolate them (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) from the free market, whilst more of the other production (be it agriculture or industry) don’t? Aren’t all the objections carried into this debate from those who want to keep in place the actual system, applicable to more or less all the rest of what people do? I’m pretty sure that potato producers would like to have the same system of protection (provided that they are the protected and not the excluded ones), or courgette producers, or apple juice producers, or shoes makers for that matter.
    And, on the other hand, why other wine producing countries where this protection system don’t exist don’t all collapse and die?
    Yes, it could be said that it is because we are different. But can’t it be said by everyone all the time that is convenient?
    I really would like, maybe one day, to listen to a possible, sound explanation for this.

  • Jeremy Seysses

    Fabio,

    Your points are clearer in your second post. Thank you for clarifying. Most businesses do require some sort of rights being paid. You usually would set up in a store and have to buy what in french is called “le pas de porte”, or the right to do business in those premises from a previous owner or set up in a business designated area where construction is available.

    As for who made these rules, I think you need to look back further than the beginning of the EU, which just led to these rules becoming EU wide. My suspicion is that you have the French to thank for this and that it came to be in the early days of the INAO, an institution created by growers, presided by growers and until not so long ago, doing right by the little guys. Under the current guy, fresh out of the Champagne negoce business, the little guys have begun feeling under fire.

    I clearlyam not going to convince you so will leave it at that.

    Giampaolo, your wishes for a truly free market are understandable, but surely you’ve realized that there is no such thing. As you aptly point out, potato and fruit farmers wished they were in a freer market or a more protected one where they would not be at the mercy of supermarket buyers. Wine is in a very privileged place. Is this something you actually regret?

    On the other hand, having a look at how other countries might be operating is certainly a good idea, but remember that wine on a large scale is still fairly new to many of these countries and stability is not necessarily yet achieved. I think that the current crisis is hurting American and Australian wine producing areas pretty hard as a whole.

  • Clearly there is no reason why we should go on limiting the right to plant vine as if it were nuclear or strategic assets. Are there plantation rights for potato or carrots? Are we in a planned communist economy? And who is benefitting by it? The people who already own land. Not the consumer. He has rights also.
    In case you read French, here is one of the posts I wrote about this topic.http://hlalau.skynetblogs.be/archive/2011/10/12/liberalisation-des-plantations-non-a-la-desinformation.html

    I hope common sense wil prevail, that the European countries who still say no to the return to plantation right won’t be bought.

  • Jeremy,
    yes, apologies for my first post – it was terribly unclear, and even inflammatory! I’m going to have to try even harder not to post comments on the fly while ‘hot n bothered’, but instead to wait a while and write a more reasoned response!
    No, you’re not going to convince me, nor I you! I still believe that small quality growers (like me!) will benefit from the abolition of planting rights. No doubt there will be consequences, but they will affect the big industrial producers, and I don’t think we’re in competition with them at all.
    jeremy, Gianpoalo, I agree that there is no such thing a a truly free market (even though everyone pays lip-service to the idea). So what can we small quality growers/producers do? We don’t have the resources, time, lobby groups, friends in the right places, etc to look after our interests, whereas the big industrial players do have all those things!

  • Today, Greece announced it changed its mind and said they would support a return to the plantation restrictions. So that 13 countries. Wonder what the Greek will receive for this, given their current financial state. Europe can be so disappointing at times, with all this bargaining and lobbying going on.

  • Egmont Labadie

    To David Strange :
    Hello, just a reflexion:

    “Restrictions on vineyard planting are an easy way to buy votes from loathsome people who want the government to pay them an unreal price for producing staggering quantities of filth so evil it is not only undrinkable, not only shames the good name of Europe’s wine, but actually tarnishes all of humanities achievements”

    I don’t know if you know it, but the European Union never bought stocks of wine, like it has been done by milk. Yes there were distillation programms, but they have been abolished. Now, what do the UE give money to the vineyard for, nowadays: substitution from one grape variety to another, to better face the market demands; industrial investments to better face the market demands; promotion outside of the UE to better face the market demands…I could go on and on. Every passive support disposition has now been abolished. I think you should read a little about what is being decided in Brussels…

    “They could be academic viticulturalists, professional wine buyers, experienced critics or anyone who can show the passing off Grenache as Grand Cru Burgundy is not going to net them a pile of fun tokens. These would be powerful, influential jobs and so open for people to compete for by demonstrating their qualifications, experience and financial disconnection from the area they want to work in”
    First you shoud study the french wine agrement reform, which is on since 2003, it goes directly in the way you’re showing. But there are still two problems: finding the right people (educated,esthetical, financially independant: you see the mess in nowadays world? Have you heard of the Miller gate? ) and paying the numerous people to taste the numerous wines (100 000 production enterprises in France only) when the prices have been low for a very long time, because we’re in a harsh competitive world.

    I would add that you yourself acknowledge that there is a danger of big industrial development. You stress the fact, that this is difficult to do on appellation ground, because of the rigid rules. But you do forget the new market segment, wines without origin, which could be theoretically grown anywhere. Wine history has taught us (look at the 1907 post-phylloxeric production crisis in Languedoc for example)that if a wine segment begins to work well, then everyone wants to have its share, and the vineyard aeras go growing amazingly fast. But when the market begins to lose interest for the wines, everyone crashes. Want a modern example? Australia.

  • Egmont Labadie

    To gianpaolo paglia:

    “Are vinegrovers more stupid than other entrepreneurs to put their money where there is no business?”
    Yes, there are lots of them who just others succeeding, but don’t understand why and how, and just try to copy. That’s how a vineyard aera inflates beyond reason…

    “I still fail to understand the rationale by which large companies should bother with investing quite substantial amount of money by planting vineyards (at a cost of € 40/50.000 per hectare, in the best scenario) when they can buy wine for € 30/40 per Hl (100 L.)”
    Because they are not better than others: wine has always been a dream, and even big companies, earning billions of euros, can invest 100 millions in a vineyard. That is not so much for them, but is enough to crash a region’s viticultural balance…

  • Egmont Labadie

    To gianpaolo paglia:
    And you should not forget the new “wines without origin” segment, which allows to produce unlimited yields anywhere (even in good productive corn or wheat areas), and putting the name of the grape and the year on the bottle…Are you sure it has been designed for young and ambitious winemakers?

  • Egmont Labadie

    “No-one is ever right before the facts and everyone says ‘I told you so’ after the facts!”
    In this case we have a looooong history of wine overproduction crisis since the year 0.

    “In a supposedly free-market economy”
    If it is supposed, it doesn’t exist. Then it can’t found an honest reflexion, it is just a mere imaginative production…The basis of all catastrophs the XXth century has exposed us too…

    “there should not be such a thing as ‘planting rights’”
    But they exist in the real world, which is a better reason that the pure perfect dream of some XVIIth century economists (who weren’t called so at the time, anyway…)

    “and if the market is flooded with cheap wine, so be it – you don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to!!”
    But good wine producers will be ruined too. And you won’t find good affordable wines for a long time thereafter…Imagine Germany after the war?

  • Egmont Labadie

    Hello to you all,
    I apologize for coming into the debate a bit late…I tried to stress some points out in my first comments. Now I should say that, if I am not for the abolition of the planting rights, if think a reform is there to be done, because there are actually problems, particularly for young winemakers. But:
    -I have the feeling that the problems are a bit different from country to country, in France the price of the plantation right is pretty low and uniform for all the territory (the price of the land is high enough!)
    -We shouldn’t throw away entirely the idea of a general regulation, the production crisis of the past have been so destructive: in the Languedoc, the good places to produce quality wine are just beginning to be known again, after fast a century of decline from the 1900 high production of filthy wine point. Observe what’s on in Australia…
    -I am in favour of a kind of regulation of the amount of “wines without origin” production growth. This is a whole new segment, and I think we should observe its evolution (it is already a pretty dynamic market trend in Bordeaux for bulk merlot producers).

  • Ben Fawcett

    “The difficulties presented by the growing season were
    accompanied by a heated debate over the new law for
    Barolo. A temporary ban has been placed on new plantings.
    Given the increase in vineyards in the past decade, there is
    widespread concern that too many lesser sites have been
    planted, and that this has resulted not only in lower prices
    but also in too much Barolo of indifferent quality appearing
    on the market.”
    This is taken from the Liberty wines 2010 Italian Vintage report. It illustrates perfectly why the restrictions should not be lifted. Precious, historic high quality sites would be and are being tarnished.

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