The Commission's announcement that it would spend €131 million to distil 430 million bottles of French wine and 371 million bottles of Italian wine into fuel was met with protests by French wine growers, who demanded that European taxpayers should buy 1.1 billion bottles of their produce.
(Quake in terror at that fearsome sense of entitlement. C'est tres formidable!)
Such "crisis distillations" are becoming increasingly common, with the commission spending about €500 million last year turning wine into petrol, and viticulturists now producing wine knowing that it will never be drunk. Nearly a quarter of all Spanish wine now ends up being used for industrial purposes.Much of the problem comes down to competition from wines from places like Australia and Chile, which are produced using more modern, mechanised techniques and are consequently cheaper and more consistent in quality. (Apparently, making wine in France is 50 times more labour-intensive than doing so in Australia.) The French winemakers are, understandably, having trouble competing with this, which faces them with a choice: make sacrifices and ruthlessly streamline to better compete or whine and demand that the government protects them. Of course, in fine dirigiste tradition, they chose the latter. Good thing that the former eastern-bloc nations have joined the EU, expanding its tax base to pay for all that wine.
(I wonder how much the price of oil would have to rise for turning surplus wine into fuel to become economically viable as a replacement.)
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