ECONOMY

Wine lake to be turned into biofuel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union has opened tenders to sell off wine surpluses in Greece and Spain to make biofuel or industrial alcohol at a cost of 22 million euros, the European Commission said yesterday. Greece would distill a maximum of 370,000 hectoliters of table wine and 130,000 hectoliters of quality wine, while Spain would distill 300,000 hectoliters of quality wine, it said. The raw alcohol resulting from the distillations could only be used for industrial purposes or biofuel so as not to disturb the market for potable alcohol, it said. Similar tenders were opened this month to distill 5.6 million hectoliters of surplus wine in France and Italy, in a process that EU Agriculture Commissioner Marianne Fischer Boel has called a »depressingly regular feature» of EU wine policy. Earlier this week, she unveiled a blueprint for wine reform, suggesting that producers be offered generous cash rewards to dig up their vines and drain the EU’s »wine lakes.» The idea would be to cut output and focus more on quality than quantity. «Once again we are spending large amounts of money on getting rid of surplus wine, when we should be spending it on improving our competitiveness,» she said in a statement. «What’s worse, both countries are distilling quality wine. This is exactly why we are calling for an urgent and profound reform of our wine market.» France, Italy and Spain are the EU’s three largest winemakers by volume. Last year they received more than 180 million euros in EU cash to distill some of their excess wine, both table and quality, into industrial alcohol or biofuel.