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May 29, 2009

Rose wine makers oppose EU mixing plans AFP – Spanish wine official Fernando Prieto Ruiz holds a press conference with European rose producers on May ï_¡ï__

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Wine producers from France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland held firm Tuesday against European Union plans to allow rose wine to be made by mixing red and white wines.

Their stand in Brussels came a month ahead of an expected EU vote -- by experts on either June 19 or June 26 -- to allow the mixing practice, which the vintners claimed will usher in the "industrialisation" of the wine industry.

Winegrowers fear such a move could lead to thousands of job losses and endanger their traditional rose, made by the more time-consuming method of leaving crushed red wine grapes to soak with their juice.

"We are heading towards a clone product, one that is denatured and which will confuse consumers," said Fernando Prieto Riuz, president of Spain's wine regulatory board.

Claude Bocquet-Thonney, head of the Swiss winemakers association said: "Will the next step be to add artificial colouring?"

The practice of mixing reds and whites is already done by New World wine-makers in countries such as Australia and South Africa.

In an attempt to resolve the row, the European Commission had proposed a compromise whereby wines created by the old method would be marked "traditional rose".

EU governments approved the plans in 2007 and European experts gave them a another green light in January. A new vote by experts is needed now that the World Trade Organisation has given tacit support to the idea.

France is leading the charge for a veto, and while it has the backing of the Greek and Italian governments, it would also need the backing of Germany and Spain to stand any chance of blocking the move.