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European Commission – Press Notice
Agriculture: Commission asks France to comply with European rules on marketing wine spirits and wine distillates
Brussels, 27 February 2012 – The European Commission has officially requested France to amend its rules on the production and marketing of certain products obtained by distilling lees and marcs. The case concerns the authorisation given by the French authorities to approved distillers to produce, on an experimental basis, wine spirits and wine distillates by distilling the by‑products of winemaking (marcs and lees), with a view to marketing them under the names 'eaux‑de‑vie de vin' and 'distillats de vin'.
The Commission considers that France, by accepting that the products be marketed under a name referring to wine although the raw materials used for their production are by‑products of winemaking, is failing to meet its obligations under Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks.
After the Commission sent a letter of formal notice, the French authorities undertook to end their practice for products obtained from marcs, but continued it for those obtained from lees. The Commission has therefore decided to send a reasoned opinion (the second stage of infringement proceedings) to the French authorities, requesting amendment of the rules in question. In the event of failure to comply within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The practice targeted by these infringement proceedings, which is in breach of European Union rules, has had an economic impact on other Member States' producers of wine spirits, wine distillates and wine traditionally intended for these products, who have lost a substantial market share.
Using a raw material obtained at a nominal price (because it is a by‑product) has conferred a competitive advantage in the marketing of the products concerned (wine spirits and wine distillates) compared with other Member States' distillers which use wine in accordance with the Union rules in force.
To find out more about infringement proceedings, see MEMO/12/134.