The EU has approved a transatlantic deal opening the glutted European wine market to imports from the US. But Germany has called for imposing a "purity law" to protect European wines from US vintners' practices.
Europe's wine shops may soon be flooded by American drink
German Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer said a new European Union code is necessary to assure the quality of European wines. US practices such as adding water to dilute the alcohol and ageing wine with woodchips to improve flavor are unacceptable in Europe, he said.
"It's absolutely unclear why we bother having rules for the production and labeling of wine in Europe if they are not applied to agreements with other countries," he said.
Numerous European lawmakers have long accused the US industry of cheapening wine by using the new methods. Adding water and sugar to wine is permitted in the United States but not the EU, as are so-called designer wines, which are separated into their various components in laboratories before being rebuilt for a more consistent taste.
But under the deal reached by EU and US negotiators, which only Germany, Austria and Portugal opposed, the two sides will mutually recognize each other's winemaking practices. They will also open more detailed talks on protecting geographical indications and the status of low alcohol wines.
Europea n culture or artificial product?
Faced with the new agreement, Italy has asked for a change in EU law to allow the use of wood chips. The EU has already allowed scientific testing but it is still banned commercially.
EU winemakers are more restricted than US producers
The president of the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates, Michael Prinz zu Salm-Salm, said he is hopeful it will stay that way.
"We are wine growers, not winemakers," he said. "We take what nature gives us to carefully craft the best wines we can. I'm worried that customers won't be able to recognize whether they're buying a part of European culture or an artificial product."
But many EU member states said they supported the 2.3 billion-euro ($2.7 billion) deal because it avoids burdensome certification procedures that might further slow sluggish sales outside of Europe.
They were also eager to see the US administration move on limiting the use of 17 European names on American wines such as Burgundy, Champagne and Chianti that until now have been considered "semi-generic" in the United States.