In EU wine there is truth -- also apples and berries

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BRUSSELS, Nov 6 (Reuters) Europe is on the verge of siding with vintners in Germany and northern climes who say what they make from apples and berries is just as much wine as the grape stuff, diplomats said.

Hot on the heels of a row over what constitutes vodka, the European Commission is grappling with another beverage battle over use of the word ''wine'' on labels.

Makers of fruit wines, in particular Germany's Apfelwein (apple wine) producers, are unhappy with proposals to restrict wine to grape beverages as part of an overall reform of the bloc's 1.3 billion euro (1.88 billion dollar) wine industry.

''The Commission will probably allow berries and apples to be included,'' an EU diplomat told Reuters.

''It is unlikely to sacrifice the overall goal for such a small compromise. There will have to be further discussions, but it will be resolved amicably.'' Michael Mann, spokesman for EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, hinted a deal could be struck before the end of the year.

''We will do everthing we can to come to a compromise which is acceptable to everyone and is pragmatic,'' Mann told a news briefing.

''We are involved in a political negotiation so of course we listen to opinions from important wine-making countries.'' Fischer Boel wants to make sweeping changes to the EU's bloated wine policy over the next few years, offering big cash incentives to producers to dig up their vines and finally drain the EU's lakes of surplus wine.

Earlier this year, a deal was struck on what vodka should be made from, following protests from the EU's ''vodka belt'' led by Poland over proposals to allow the spirit to be made from any agricultural material.

Poland backed by Finland and Sweden argued that grain and potatoes should be the only ingredients, but other countries said fruit or molasses should also be allowed. A deal was struck whereby labels must prominently display the raw material used.

REUTERS ARB BD0840

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