EU opens tender to distil wine into biofuel

BRUSSELS Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:52am EDT

Wine bottles sit on a rack in a store in this undated file photo. The European Union has opened a tender to sell unwanted wine in four countries for use in making bioethanol, its Official Journal said on Tuesday. REUTERS/ Files

Wine bottles sit on a rack in a store in this undated file photo. The European Union has opened a tender to sell unwanted wine in four countries for use in making bioethanol, its Official Journal said on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/ Files

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has opened a tender to sell unwanted wine in four countries for use in making bioethanol, its Official Journal said on Tuesday.

The tender would offer roughly 693,376 hectoliters of wine alcohol stored in France, Greece, Italy and Spain. The deadline for bids was September 10, it said in its latest edition.

"A tendering procedure for the sale of wine alcohol for exclusive use as bioethanol in the fuel sector in the Community should be organized ... with a view to reducing Community stocks of wine alcohol and ensuring continuity of supplies," it said.

France, the world's largest wine producer, would offer 239,995 hectoliters of wine alcohol for distillation, while Italy and Spain would offer 200,000 hectoliters apiece. The balance of roughly 53,381 hectoliters will come from Greece.

France, Italy and Spain are the EU's largest winemakers by volume and receive generous amounts of cash from Brussels to distil some of their excess wine, both table and quality, into industrial alcohol or biofuel.

Later this year, EU farm ministers will discuss a European Commission proposal for a sweeping reform of EU wine policy that would abolish "crisis distillation" -- an emergency market tool used as a short-term measure to correct supply imbalances.

The Commission complains that the EU wine industry still depends too much on distillation to rid itself of unwanted "wine lakes" at the taxpayers' expense, saying a fundamental reform is needed to make EU wines more competitive.

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