Reform of the wine industry
European Union farm ministers on Monday said they overwhelmingly support a profound reform of the continent's wine industry to tackle overproduction and increasing global competition.

"There was total agreement on the fact that we have a wine surplus, we have a crisis in the market and we are losing market share and therefore it is clear something needs to be done," said Mariann Fischer Boel, the EU's agriculture commissioner after a regular ministerial meeting.

Faced with such different scenarios to tackle the crisis, the one proposing "profound reform," said Finland's Agriculture Minister Juha Korkeaoja, "was supported by just about all member countries." The package under discussion should thoroughly change the way wine in marketed globally. Foremost, higher quality wines for which Europe is famous should be promoted. A scheme to grub up huge swathes of vineyards across Europe is at the heart of the reform to restore balance to the market.

There is talk of ripping out some 400,000 hectares, over 10 percent of the vineyards, but Boel refused to be pinned down on specifics. She stressed digging up vines would need to be done voluntarily. Yet she stressed it was necessary and dismissed criticism that farmers would be hurt too hard. "If we don't do anything we will cause huge social problems," she said.

The EU head office has said European taxpayers had to fork out €$150 million (US$190 million) this year to distill unsold wine into industrial alcohol or biofuel to prevent a surplus undermining wine prices. Meanwhile increasingly popular sales of wines from Australia, Chile, South Africa and other overseas producers could soon turn the EU into a net importer of wines.

Whatever the measures, French officials insisted any reform should have a proper "safety net" to make sure vintners don't face sudden ruin. Italian agriculture minister Paolo De Castro said the southern Mediterranean nations would stand united to fend off overly drastic changes. "We will continue to construct a Mediterranean alliance," he said.

Several nations backed the reforms. Ireland has pointed out that New World imports now account for 70 percent of its wine market and Britain has said Australia had recently overtaken France as Britain's main supplier, EU officials said.
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Wine colors...

Learning the basics about wine and winemaking is useful because it allows you to (a) credibly evaluate the wines you taste and (b) impress your date.
What exactly is this stuff and why is everyone all up in arms about it? Wine isn't just high-octane grape juice. Making good wine is a process; if you don't believe us, try drinking some really cheap wine and you'll quickly learn why Monty Python claimed that it "opens the sluices at both ends." Fine wine involves taking a great grape vine, growing it in the right soil, ushering the grapes through the fermentation process, aging the wine properly, and releasing it at exactly the right time. In short, there are plenty of things to screw up. The English have been botching it for years.
There are four major types of wine: red, white, rose (or blush), and champagne. As far as dining is concerned, we're going to focus only on the first two types, since champagne is its own animal and most wine advisers recommend chilled rose only for a picnic on a hot day. And anything that comes in a can, a box, or a 40-ounce container isn't technically wine; it will be listed on the menu under the heading "Cheapskates."
What is wine?
Essentially, wine is fermented grape juice, but with some twists. God left us with a few remnants of Eden when he gave us the boot, and one of the best is the fact that any fruit containing sugar will turn to booze if you leave it to ferment. In the process of fermentation, yeast converts the sugar into alcohol. Yeast is found all over the place, and in the wild, it lands on the skins of grapes. And although grapes will ferment naturally, vintners nowadays don't take any chances. They labor over the precise strain of yeast to be used in their recipes, because different choices will lead to different results.
The ingredients
Most people believe that green grapes make white wine and red grapes make red wine. That is largely true, but you should know that white wine can also be made from red grapes. The inside of a red grape is essentially "white" - and most wines are made with just the inside of the grape. The red color in red wine is created by allowing the fleshy interior to mix with the pulpy skins during the crushing process, which infuses red wines with "tannin," an ingredient that gives red wine its distinctive flavor. So you can make white wine with red grapes - like White Zinfandel, a white wine made from a grape with a decidedly red exterior - but not red wine with green grapes. To top it off, most champagnes are made from red grapes. Weird, but true.
The process
The grapes are first crushed, with or without the skins, and then left to ferment. A disinfectant is used to neutralize any contaminants in the juice, such as mold and bacteria, that may have been on the grapes. The fluid, or "must," is then left to complete the fermentation process in either big steel vats or small wooden barrels. Fermentation in barrels requires a longer process and is harder to keep at the right temperature, but supposedly leads to a better finished product, for which you will, of course, end up paying more.
Once the wine is properly fermented, the vintner plucks out all the little nibblets, and then matures the clarified vino. The better vineyards age the wine for years in oak barrels, which infuses the wine with positive woody hints. The lamer vineyards shove the stuff in a steel vat just long enough for it to be squirted into bottles with plastic spigots.
Where the color comes from?
Color is one of the major distinguishing features of wine. The main difference between red and white wine is that the grape juice used to make red wine contains skins, seeds, and stems. This is significant because leaving juice to mix together with the woody bits (known as maceration) causes the finished product to contain something we briefly mentioned earlier - tannins. If the term "tannin" bugs you because you don't really understand it, just think about a strong cup of tea. That woody taste is tannin. In wine, it can lend a wonderful complexity to red varieties.
The rule
The reason you need to be aware of the differences between red and white wine is because of one of the oldest rules in fine dining: harmonize your food and drink. If you're going to be eating something delicate with subtle tastes, the Rule states that you should avoid drinking something with a strong flavor that will overshadow the food. Conversely, a hearty meal will often be best complimented by a strong wine with flavor of its own. But every single current guide to wine makes a point of saying that the Rule is out of date and the only hard-and-fast dictate of wine drinking is to choose something you enjoy.
The rationale behind the rule
Nevertheless, there's a reason that the Rule evolved in the first place: it makes sense. If, for example, you're trying to pick up on the vague hints of Caribbean brine that delicately caress the primo slice of sushi you just ordered, slurping a bowl of tequila isn't going to help. Balancing food with drink may not be required anymore, but it's a good tip to keep in mind. A specific corollary of the Rule is that white wines tend to go best with fish and white meats, like chicken and pork; red wines go best with red meat and red sauces.
Another adjunct to the Rule is that you should begin with lighter wines and progress to heavier ones throughout the course of the meal. This policy again reflects the idea that you should not overburden your palate: if you start with a strong drink, your taste buds will be shot and you won't be able to enjoy anything that comes after it. That is why aperitifs are typically light drinks and dessert liquids, like port, are rich and heavy.
One of the main distinctions - after red and white - that's bandied about by wine drinkers is whether a particular quaff is "sweet" or "dry." Though imagining how a fluid can be dry is something of a logical stretch, just bear in mind that dry is nothing more than the opposite of sweet, and we all know what sweet tastes like. A related factor is the weight of a particular type of wine, which refers to the amount of alcohol present in a given sample.
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Wine in Russia
The alcoholic drinks market in Russia has been one of the fastest growing consumer markets in the country and the industry is now heavily dependant on imports of wine, wine materials and spirits. Producers and distributors from around the world are becoming increasingly aware of Russia as an export market and, considering its current and projected growth rate, most industry professionals now view Russia as a vital part of any successful sales and marketing strategy.
According to Italian experts, sales of wine in Russia total about 700mn litres a year in volume, rates of the market growth - 8% and 15 in volume and in value respectively. Import occupies slightly more than 50% of the market or 380mn litres. Import of Italian wine products is growing steadily: EUR 17.8mn (US$ 22.47mn) in 2003, EUR 21mn (US$ 26.51mn) in 2004, EUR 31.5mn (US$ 39.76mn) in 2005.
In January 2006, cost of import increased almost three times, compared to index in January 2005, and amounted to EUR 3mn (US$ 3.79mn). Italy occupies 7% in the Russian market of wine import and is in the forth and the second places in volume in value respectively. Quoting Italian experts, 126 companies-importers of wine and alcoholic products operate in Russia, 16 largest companies control 65% of the market.
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