Germany said on Tuesday it would try to block a preliminary deal between the European Union and the United States that would increase U.S. wine imports into a glutted European market, arguing U.S. production methods were unacceptable. EU farm ministers were to discuss the issue later Tuesday and had been expected to easily approve the deal until Germany, Greece and Portugal raised objections, officials said.
"It cannot be that American artificial wine ends up on the German market without the consumer recognizing it," said German Farm Minister Horst Seehofer. "The German quality wines will be drowned by cheap laboratory wines because of this deal," he added. The deal on the US$2.8 billion (Ђ2.3 billion) a year trans-Atlantic wine trade does not require unanimous approval and was still likely to pass, officials said.
The deal, tentatively approved in September, aims to settle a 20-year-old dispute over rules on winemaking and labeling. But parliamentarians have opposed it, arguing import conditions for U.S. wine would be far too lenient. The EU farmers' organization COPA-COGECA joined the opposition and has objected to some U.S. filtration methods and to the use of wood chips to achieve the popular oaky, smoky vanilla flavor.
Water dilution is largely banned in the EU, as is the use of oak chips, and European winemakers consider it unfair to have to compete with imports using such practices. Under the provisional deal, the two sides will mutually recognize each other's winemaking practices, setting the stage for more detailed talks on protecting geographical indications and the status of low-alcohol wines.
Many member states have said they want to approve the deal to avoid burdensome certification procedures that might further slow sluggish sales outside of Europe. The U.S. administration is to ask Congress to change the status, and limit the use of, 17 European names on American wines.
The names Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Claret, Haut-Sauterne, Hock, Madeira, Malaga, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Retsina, Rhine, Sauterne, Sherry and Tokay have until now been considered "semi-generic" in the United States. Once Washington has changed their status, American exporters will benefit from simplified certification of their wines in the EU, reports the AP. N.U.