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The EU has launched a programme to promote moderate wine consumption in combination with protected designations of origin. In the first half of 2023, producers, wine merchants, journalists and restaurateurs gathered at several events to find out more about these topics.

"Responsible Wine Consumption" is written on the cover of the brochure, several copies of which are lying on the long, laid-out restaurant table. It also features a stylised owl whose body represents the goblet of a wine glass. It is probably supposed to watch over the responsible consumption of wine, which is the theme of the evening.

We are in Thessaloniki, and this evening is the last of three in which a multi-course menu is served for German and Greek wine professionals. The dishes are accompanied by Greek wines. All the guests know about the wines is that they come from central Macedonia in the north of the country, are made from the Xinomavro grape variety and have a protected designation of origin.

Support programme for the European wine industry

The culinary blind tasting is part of the concept. This is because the "business dinners", which have been organised in several cities in Germany and Greece this year, are financially supported by the European Union (EU). The background to this is the so-called national support programme. Member states receive amounts from the EU budget to support "various measures in favour of the wine sector", according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture (BMEL).

Among other things, events that serve to "provide information on responsible wine consumption and the Community system of geographical indications" are eligible for funding, according to the BMEL. Such information campaigns can take place either in an EU member state, in several member states (intra-Community) or in third countries that do not belong to the EU (extra-Community). Wine producers or producer organisations such as associations based in an EU country can apply for funding.

According to the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE), the support programme is intended to "contribute to further improving the competitiveness of European viticulture in the coming years. The aim is to inform consumers about responsible wine consumption and about EU designations of origin and geographical indications." At the dinners, international guests from the wine trade, catering and media will find out how these topics are connected.

The EU brochure summarises the key information


Business dinners as information events

The events are hosted by the northern Greek winery Vaeni Naoussa. It has launched an intra-Community information campaign in accordance with EU guidelines, which will run for three years and is co-financed by Greece. It is organised by the Greek agricultural consultancy Novacert and the German wine marketing and event agency Wein-Plus Solutions. Together with the third term of the support programme, the campaign ends on 31 August 2023, and by then eleven business dinners will have taken place this year alone, eight of them in the first half of the year.

The principle is the exchange between wine professionals in a suitable atmosphere, as the EU recommends drinking wine with a meal. It therefore makes sense to present the guidelines for responsible wine consumption and the system of protected designations of origin in the EU at a dinner. Ten to twelve guests from Germany and Greece are invited to each event, some of whom may also visit the other country.

There were three business dinners in Thessaloniki and Athens in February 2023 and two dinners in Düsseldorf in March, which took place during the international trade fair ProWein. In June, German journalists travelled to Thessaloniki to take part in three more dinners. The intended dialogue between the guests worked very well: they spoke in English, Greek and German about wine quality, regions of origin, food pairing and much more.

There will be three more business dinners in the Rhine-Main region at the end of August. The identity of the wines served will remain hidden at all events, as the EU programme prohibits the promotion of individual wines or producers. The requirement is that the accompanying wines must come from an EU member state - in this case Greece - and bear a protected designation of origin.

The Vaeni Naoussa winery is the client of the information campaign


Protected designations of origin in the EU

The system of protected designations of origin in the EU follows the principle: the closer the origin, the higher the quality of the wine. This means that the smaller the geographical unit from which the grapes originate, the better the wine. The country of origin is considered the largest geographical unit and a vineyard the smallest.

According to this principle of origin, there are three quality levels for wine from the member states of the Union - in ascending order:

The g. PDO is basically the narrowest designation of origin, which stands for higher wine quality. It defines the strictest specifications with regard to the geographical unit for the cultivation and processing of the grapes, the grape variety(ies), the cultivation, the yield, the harvest, the vinification, the ageing, the maturing time in the cellar and/or certain analysis values.

In Greek, the protected geographical indication is called "Prostatevomenis Geografikis Endixis" (abbreviated to PGE) and the protected designation of origin "Prostatevomenis Onomasías Proelefsis" (abbreviated to POP). At the business dinners, only wines labelled with the PGI "Macedonia PGE" or the PDO "Naoussa POP" are served. U. "Naoussa POP". Naoussa POP applies solely to red wines made from 100 per cent of the indigenous Xinomavro grape variety, while Macedonia PGE also applies to Xinomavro, which is pressed white (Greek: lefkós ex erythrón) or as a rosé.

The owl is a symbol of wisdom in Western culture


Protection of origin promotes consumer awareness

As the protection of origin defines clear quality specifications, this is the link to responsible wine consumption. The connection is explained in the brochure with the owl, which the EU has published for the information campaign. Responsible consumption refers not only to the quantity or frequency, but also to the quality of the wines.

In the brochure, the EU recommends drinking wine "in moderation", "slowly" and "with water". It contrasts wines with a protected designation of origin, which it refers to as "branded wines", with "bulk wine of unknown origin" and argues: "Unlike branded wines, bulk wine has no label and therefore the consumer cannot find out very important details such as the producer, origin of the raw materials, varietal composition of the wine, year of harvest, year of bottling and other data that contribute to responsible consumption."

Put simply, responsible wine consumption means drinking more slowly, less and less often, but better. And wines with a protected designation of origin from the EU offer an indication of higher quality, as they come from a precisely specified geographical area and are produced according to strict regulations. Protected wines therefore contribute to responsible consumption, or at least make it easier - according to the EU.

The EU is in favour of moderate wine consumption


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