Allegrini 2024

Wine between health protection and promotion in the European debate: the door to dialogue has begun to open

The conference, “Wine communication for CMO revision and health-conscious requests” during the Slow Wine Fair 2023 at BolognaFiere

For weeks, media attention has been focused on yet another internal threat to wine, which has come from Ireland. The European Union Commission has given it the green light to introduce health warnings on the back labels of alcoholic beverages. Wine, obviously, is included, and once again — following a long parliamentary debate on the Beating Cancer Plan - the center of attention, especially in Italy, where the outcry was unanimous. The political and production worlds alike have never been so compact in defending a basic principle, and which was also reaffirmed during the conference, “Wine communication for CMO revision and health-conscious requests”, held at the Slow Wine Fair 2023: good, clean and fair wine at BolognaFiere, under the artistic direction of Slow Food. Wine is not like other alcoholic products, because, first of all, it is a product of the earth. It is the expression of a millenary culture and of territories that it has protected. Further, it plays a top level role at the table and in the Mediterranean Diet; of course, if consumed in moderation. Therefore, the CMO promotion funds do not just support a product, which for some European Union member Countries represents a danger to health, but they are also a lever to grow economies of scale that respect the environment and generate wealth for entire territories.

Defending an inalienable principle, however, does not necessarily have to turn into a conflict. Instead, it can be a discussion and, why not, a dialogue, as Alessio Planeta, at the helm of one of the symbolic companies of the Sicilian wine Renaissance, hopes. He pointed out that one cannot “deny the fact that behind consuming wine there could be abuse, because it is an alcoholic beverage, and as such presents some critical issues that we certainly do not find in a glass of water. We must therefore learn how to dialogue with the changing world, to not be caught unprepared, exactly like 20 years ago when the Italian society began to realize the importance of fighting drunk driving. The Irish proposal creates some perplexities. However, we have to place ourselves on a different level, because the future will include consumer education, working to expand the audience of wine lovers, logically starting from the fact that per capita consumption has continued and is continuing to decrease”, said Alessio Planeta. “Speaking of CMO wine, the budget for promotion is fundamental for the growth of the sector, because wine has been the driving force for tourism, food and many other economic sectors. We contemplate using part of those funds to promote responsible consumption of wine, and thus bring together two needs: economic for the wine supply chains, and community, for health protection”, added the Sicilian winemaker.

CMO wine must be defended at all costs, eventually pledging resources to communicate responsible consumption, but also to open dialogue with others. Sometimes, as Silvano Brescianini, president of the Consortium of Franciacorta, envisions, it is starting from clear assumptions and positions. “Prohibition does not work, as history has taught us. That same history has written the success of a model like the Mediterranean Diet, and the culture of wine, which has now conquered the entire world. The connection between wine and civilization is enormous, and the battle to impose a different consumption model, as Europe seems to be doing now, by trying to push wine into a corner, even in promotion, must be fought”. After all, wine has always been capable of building bridges and virtuous examples, almost everywhere. For instance, “In the United States of America, which in addition to being the number one market for imports and consumption, has also become an important wine producer, and not causing any problems to the US society. Or in China, where wine is an alternative and more moderate choice to Baiju. Promoting wine abroad means promoting the territory, traditions, and the entire system benefits from it. This is why Italy must assert itself together with France and Spain, as well as Germany and Portugal. In other words, the Countries that have a much greater specific and political weight than the smaller Northern European Countries”, added Silvano Brescianini.

Roberto Sarti, coordinator of the Unione Italiana Vini (Italian wines union) “Vino & Salute” roundtable, retraced the steps that led to the Dublin Government’s race ahead. He recalled that the silent assent of the European Commission, which then gave the green light to health warnings on the back labels, was “desired, and an attempt launched in the European Union to evaluate reactions, and if necessary, to impose such a measure on all the Countries. More information should be included on the label, and the vast majority agree on this, but the bar of differentiation between use and abuse must be kept straight, as has been mentioned several times. As more and more scientific studies show, moderate consumption, within a balanced diet such as the Mediterranean diet, can have health benefits. This does not mean, though, that teetotalers would do well to start drinking. The Italian tradition has allowed a much more conscientious approach to alcohol consumption compared to many Northern European Countries, because wine is culture, tradition and it accompanies the meal”, said Roberto Sarti.

We must work towards communicating these aspects. There is also another one connected to them: CMO funding to promote wine. For Italy, this means 100 million euros a year, which have allowed, in just over a decade, Italy to double the sector’s exports, growing in many Countries, thanks to the possibility, especially for small companies, of proposing their differences to the world. We have encountered many difficulties building up a critical mass, but we can now narrate our wealth and diversity of vines and territories. Now, the objective has become being together, because so far we have not moved very uniformly between one Region and another. We need a central operations unit, which is lacking in Italy, but which is instead present in France and Spain, to define the objectives and the parameters of the wine sector, to avoid wasting resources. The objective of the European Union Commission to reduce cancer-related mortality is absolutely acceptable; however, we need to provide information, not terrify the consumer. In order to do this we need resources and investments, obviously including those of CMO for Promotion”, the coordinator of the Unione Italiano Vini (UIV) “Vino & Salute” round table from the conference that closed the Slow Wine Fair 2023. Giangiacomo Bonaldi Gallarati Scotti, president of FEDERDOC, Maria Grazia Mammuccini, president of FEDERBIO, Valentina Petroli of the Agri-food and Wine Office, ICE-Agency also attended the Fair, as well as, in live streaming from Brussels, Paolo De Castro, coordinator of the Socialists & Democrats Group at the Agriculture and Rural Development Commission of the European Parliament.

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