Wine is a natural, agricultural product. It does not result from a fixed manufacturing recipe. Therefore, it 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 wine-making techniques are all decisive yet variable factors that give each wine a unique character and personality.
Wine is defined in the EU legislation (Reg. (EU) 1308/2013) 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, with a view to ensuring that consumers are properly protected and informed, whilst allowing the proper functioning of the internal market.
The EU is the first producer, consumer, exporter and importer of wine in the world, representing:
of world’s wine-growing areas
For centuries, wine has been deeply rooted in the European culture. Most European regions have traditionally considered wine a refined product, to be elaborated with care, consumed in moderation, and appreciated to the extent of its unique characteristics.
Today still, the fine quality of EU wines and the way in which they are presented and communicated to consumers, call for respectful patterns of consumption. Whether accompanying festive gatherings and celebrations or simply complementing everyday meals, wine can only be fully appreciated when consumed moderately and responsibly. This principle is at the very heart of the Wine in Moderation programme, which is actively supported by CEEV.
Wine is also intricately linked with Europe’s territories, as European wine products are exclusively made from grapes cultivated within the diverse terroirs of the European Union. Our wine companies therefore heavily depend on a certain territory and on the communities living there, unlike many other food sectors that could turn to other parts of the world to source their raw materials from.
In a historically well-balanced equation, the wine sector has thus created value for local communities and guaranteed the subsistence of populations in vulnerable rural areas with little or no other economic alternative.
The strong bond between wine and territory is enshrined in the European Union wine regulatory framework, which forbids mixing European wines with wines produced outside the EU. But it is even better embodied by wines with Geographical Indications. Identified for the sake of consumers through a strict system of protected geographical indications and denominations of origin, these reputed quality wines showcase some characteristics that are attributable to a specific geographical area.
Composed of an overwhelming majority of small and medium companies located in rural areas, the EU wine sector plays a key role in the economic, social and environmental sustainability of European regions: where vines grace the landscape, the wine sector provides employment to millions. In other terms, vine growing and wine production ensure the sustainability of rural societies in many European regions by providing employment that is often more specialised and better paid than in other agricultural sectors.
But the socioeconomic dimension of the wine sector goes well beyond the agricultural activity occurring in the vineyards and cellars, as it also generates economic activity in sectors that are directly or indirectly linked to the wine production itself:
- Nursery sector: The European grapevine nursery production is the first important step in the wine production chain, as it influences the quality and quantity of EU wine production.
- Oak casks: With around 25% of EU wines aged in oak casks, the EU is the global leader in barrels’ production and its market alone represents around 60% of the global market.
- Glass: The wine sector is one of the major outlets of the packaging glass industry, which provides employment to some 50 000 people in Europe.
- Cork: The wine industry plays a key role in the sustainability of the European centenary forests of cork oak trees. With 716 000 hectares of oak forest, Portugal is the world leader of an industry that produces around 13 billion cork stoppers annually.
- Oenological products: Oenology benefits from a wide range of tools and techniques developed to accompany the winemaking process, while at the same time ensuring strict hygiene standards.
- Agricultural machinery: The EU wine sector works in close collaboration with agricultural machinery producers to develop specific and cutting-edge tools allowing the sector to increase its efficiency and sustainability.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the positive impact of the wine sector in the EU is not limited to wine producing countries only. It also contributes to the economy of non-producing countries, through activities further down the wine value chain, such as transport, logistics, marketing and sales.
The wine sector contributes to the sustainability of the EU environment, in many ways. Vineyards ensure human presence in vulnerable rural areas, where little or no other economic prospect is to be found. Vines planted on hillsides help limiting soil erosion and provide fire protection thanks to the low density of their rootstocks preventing fire from spreading.
The European Landscape Convention acknowledges the particular relevance of vineyards in terms of adding value to landscapes and contributing to their preservation. Also, based on the European Landscape Convention’s provisions regarding the protection, management and planning of landscapes, numerous studies have been carried out to highlight the value of vine-planted areas and promote vineyard landscapes as a label of quality tourism.