Last Wednesday I attended a “Non-Wine Tasting” in the Brussels parliament. It was well attended, and was graced by the visit of a very senior, distinguished and well-loved MEP Astrid Lulling (Luxembourg), who is also inter alia Chairman of the parliament’s Wine Intergroup (which counter-intuitively exists to work on issues facing this major European industry — not simply to test the products).
In her early youth, Astrid leaned to the left, as so many young people used to do, and reputedly once met Hugh Gaitskell. We were delighted to welcome her to our event.
The story of the Non-Wine is instructive. The English wine industry is enjoying something of a renaissance, enhanced by “Global Warming”. The bad news for the Warmists is of course that warming on this scale happens about every thousand years or so. It’s a well-established, moderate, natural climate cycle, and nothing whatever to do with “Catastrophic Climate Change”. Two thousand years ago the Romans were growing grapes up towards Hadrian’s Wall. The industry also made a false start during the Mediæval Warm Period, until the growth of sea-borne commerce with Aquitaine, when as one historian put it “The nascent English wine industry was overlaid by its vigorous Gallic mother”.
There is a successful English wine company on Nigel Farage’s South East patch, Chapel Down Winery at Tenterden, Kent. Of course they mostly use local grapes, but they entered into a deal to import some Malbec grapes from Argentina, to celebrate “World Malbec Day”, and made a small batch of wine from these grapes. They called it “An English Salute”.
Then starts the problem. According to Commission rules, European wine must be made from European grapes, and if you use imported grapes, you may not sell it as wine. It’s a “fruit-derived alcoholic beverage from produce sourced outside the EU”. No, honest.
It looks like wine. It smells like wine. It tastes like wine. It engenders the same mellow glow as wine. And I can tell you from personal experience that it tastes a good deal better than a lot of the rather mediocre French stuff they serve in the parliament. But we can’t call it wine.
Personally, I can’t see a big problem in transporting grapes from the vineyards to the winery. I recall in 1972 visiting the Brotherhood Winery in New York State. Expecting quaint vineyards, I was rather disappointed to find a factory-scale operation, using much the same grapes to make any kind of wine you wanted, and surrounded by vast car-parks for visitors, who were marshalled in groups of fifty. The grapes were trucked down hundreds of miles from the Finger Lakes in the North of the State.
The EU has form on these matters. In my early days in the parliament, we fought a years-long battle to stop them banning the word “chocolate” from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Now, it seems, they’re telling what we can’t call “wine”. Time for the Commission to back off. Whose language do they think it is anyway?