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Wine Revolt Recorked

DW staff (nda)November 8, 2007

People go to war over many things; religion, land, resources. Many times, the reason is long forgotten in the horror which follows. Luckily, no one will have to face the shame of one breaking out over apple wine.

A German Fox armored vehicle on patrol in Afghanistan
German tanks were called back from the Belgian border after Apfelwein was savedImage: AP

It was set to be the biggest battle over EU designations since the infamous Champagne War of 2005 and the equally distressing Feta Incident of 2002. But, somewhat ironically considering the nature of the dispute in the first place, common sense has prevailed to end the Apfelwein Rebellion of 2007 before any sap was spilt.

The German campaign, led by Hesse Premier Roland Koch with support from federal Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer, was ready to storm the gates of the Eurocrat fortresses in Brussels to fight for the right to have the traditional cider-like brew recognized as a wine.

The EU claimed that the regional drink fell foul of a proposal from the European Commission to use the term "wine" purely for grape products.

Koch and Seehofer target Euro madness

Hesse state governor Roland Koch
Roland Koch: "Madness"Image: AP

An outraged Koch vehemently defended his state's brew and the drums of conflict began to sound.

"We will not allow our traditional name to be sacrificed to regulatory madness in Brussels," Koch ranted earlier this week. "We will fight with all the means at our disposal for our apple wine."

Seehofer, obviously seeing the worth in throwing his federal weight behind such an affront to German tradition, joined what he called a "justified" cause.

"The minister definitely wants to save the terms Apfelwein and Obstwein [fruit wine], while it should be made clear to consumers that these are not grape products," Seehofer bravely stated -- through a spokesperson -- to a gaggle of unpatriotic reporters.

Anyone who has found the sour tasting regional icon to be unpalatable may appreciate the German efforts out of principle alone. Apfelwein, which is also known under various other terms like "Ebbelwoi" and "Apfelmost," is seen as an oddity in the rest of the country and those who have no love of its taste would struggle to defend it.

Devastation averted EU peacemakers

Apfelwein being poured
Frankfurt was awash with Apfelwein as peace broke outImage: AP

But this fight was about the name and not the taste. Thankfully, for once at least, the European Commission saw sense. Apfelwein, it was announced on Tuesday, will remain a wine after all.

"In the context of the negotiations on the wine reform we will find a solution to allow Apfelwein and other fruit and berry wines to continue to be marketed as they are now -- namely as fruit wines," EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said in a statement that will surely be quoted when she picks up her future Nobel Peace Prize for averting the conflict.

"Contrary to what I have read in the newspapers over recent days, it was never our intention to stop the production of these products," she said, adding that Germany and Brussels would work for a compromise at a meeting of farm ministers in December.

Reports suggest that the state of emergency in Hesse has since been scaled back.