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EU uncorks anger over US wine pact

Old World fumes at New World practices

NAPA, Calif. -- Some European Union lawmakers are fuming over a new US wine trade agreement, saying they're being force-fed such New World innovations as subbing wood chips for barrel aging or even, quelle horreur, adding water.

US winemakers say that their practices are legitimate -- and point out the Old World has wine wiles of its own.

At issue is a clash between the tradition-bound, heavily regulated European wine industry and a much younger American wine industry that came of age during a technological revolution.

''The difference in the New World -- and it's not just California and the United States, it's Australia and New Zealand too -- is: Is there a more efficient way to do something with technology?" said Roger Boulton, enologist at the University of California, Davis.

Under the accord, reached by negotiators in September, the United States and the European Union agreed to recognize each other's winemaking practices. Meanwhile, the White House agreed to ask Congress to stop US producers from using names such as sherry, port, and Champagne that derive from European wine-growing regions.

Underlying the quarrel are market realities. Although the EU continues to export far more wine than the United States, Australian and US wines have been making gains in the European market.

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