The union will pay its farmers to remove some of their vines in order to cut the surplus wine production. The ministers have also rejected a proposal to restrict the label “wine” to drinks made from grapes. This decision will satisfy Polish fruit wine producers.
The limitation in the naming of alcoholic beverages was proposed in July by the European Commission and supported by the biggest grape wine producers: France, Italy and Spain.
A coalition of countries where wine is made from other fruits – Poland, Germany and Sweden – was established to oppose the change, and it succeeded both in the European Parliament and then among the agriculture ministers.
Poland is the biggest fruit wine producer of the EU. Its climate doesn’t suit grapevine growing, and grape cultivation is popular only in Poland’s southwestern regions. In other parts of the country, wine is made from apples, cherries, pears and currants. Much of the Polish alcohol production is low-quality fruity drinks to which the Polish term “jabol” is applied. The cheap drinks, with apples a common ingredient, are often consumed by alcoholics.
Other higher-quality traditional fruit wines are produced by small wineries, many of them family businesses. These owners have been concerned about meeting the same Polish alcohol production standards as the big factories. The proposed “wine” label limitations would also have created higher marketing expenses for them.
This was the second dispute in the EU in 2007 over the naming of alcoholic drinks. Earlier, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and three Baltic states protested against allowing the word “vodka” on labels of spirits distilled from materials other than grain and potatoes. The battle was lost, much to the dismay of Polish vodka producers. Now even beverages made of bananas can be officially named vodka.
Currently the most popular alcoholic beverage in Poland is beer. According to a poll conducted last June by the Indicator Marketing Analysis Center, 75 percent of Poles who drink alcohol have purchased beer while 56 percent have purchased vodka. Champagne and wine were less popular, with 32 percent and 22 percent respectively.
The EU is the world’s biggest wine producer, but it faces growing competition from overseas in its own market area. Last year, imports of wine from the Americas, Australia and Africa grew by 10 percent, while 15 percent of the EU wine production remained unsold.