About the EU wine sector
A natural agricultural product
Wine is a natural, agricultural product recognised by the EU Treaties and basically defined in the EU legislation as a “product obtained exclusively from the total or partial alcoholic fermentation of fresh grapes, whether or not crushed, or of grape must”.
Each one of the parameters in this definition of wine is fully defined, regulated and controlled by an extremely comprehensive Wine Common Market Organisation in the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy. It covers all wine production aspects, from the soils to the consumer, aimed at ensuring that consumers are properly protected and informed, whilst allowing the proper functioning of the Internal Market.
Wine is not the result of fixed manufacturing recipes. As an agricultural product, wine changes from one year to another depending on the characteristics of the harvest. Each wine, even from the same producer and from the same terroir, is unique. Soil, weather, geology, varietals, and the style of wine making used, are all decisive yet variable factors that give each wine a unique character.
Integral to European life and culture
The Wine sector permeates many levels of the European life, contributing significantly to society in socio-economic, environmental and societal terms: where vines grace the landscape, the wine sector provides employment to millions, helping to sustain the fabric of rural societies and maintaining a way of life that is central to the very notion of European identity.
Traditionally, most European cultures consider wine a refined choice, a vision that is consistent with moderate consumption. Appreciated for its flavour, texture, body, colour, bouquet and variety, wine is often a tasty complement to meals. Only by savouring wine moderately and slowly, can its complex flavours be fully appreciated and enjoyed. We also believe that the quality products the EU Wine sector produces in and of themselves, as well as the way in which wines are communicated, presented and made available to consumers, incite moderate consumption patterns. Wine is only appreciated in moderation.
The European Union is the world’s leading producer, consumer, exporter and importer of wine, accounting for:
- 45 % of wine-growing areas,
- 65 % of production,
- 57 % of global consumption and
- 70 % of exports in global terms.
Social and economic dimension
Vine-growing and Wine production is an essential economic and labour intensive activity and plays a major socioeconomic role for many Member States and regional economies, and for the EU economy as a whole.
In 2004, wine production represented 5.4% of the EU’s agricultural output and for some southern European economies (France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Luxemburg, Slovenia and Spain) it accounted for approximately 10% of the value of agricultural production.
The EU Wine sector evolves in an extremely competitive context at all levels (national, EU and international), but it is composed by an overwhelming majority of small producers, and is therefore extremely atomised in comparison with other food and drinks industries:
- 1.3 million holdings with vineyards for wine production in the EU-25 in 2005,
- representing more than 20% of the total employment in EU agriculture,
- employing over 3 million people, with family labour force still being very prevalent;
- occupying more than 3 million hectares of land.
- with an average holding size of 2.6 ha in 2005.
Of course, the socioeconomic dimension of wines extends beyond the agricultural activity in the vineyards as it also involves:
- the production of wine not taking place directly on the farm, i.e. in cooperative cellars or in private wineries – in 2004, more than 75 000 people were employed in the activity of wine production in the EU-25
- indirect economic activities linked to wine production such as trade and marketing of wine, production of oak casks, bottles, labels, capsules, corks etc., development of wine tourism (hotels, bars, restaurants, etc.), distillation of wine, production of wine spirits and wine by-products.
The wine sector also contributes significantly to the EU environment. Vineyards ensure human presence in fragile areas that often lack other real economic value. Vines planted on hillsides help limit soil erosion and can also provide fire protection since the low density of their rootstocks helps restricting the spread of fire.
As the wine sector adds value to landscapes and contributes to its preservation, the European Landscape Convention recognizes a particular relevance to vineyards. Furthermore, based on the European Landscape Convention's provisions regarding the protection, management and planning of landscapes, numerous studies have been developed to highlight the value, to set codes of best practices, to preserve the environment and to promote vineyard landscapes as a label of quality tourism.