Language of document : ECLI:EU:C:1998:566

JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Sixth Chamber)

25 November 1998 (1)

(Wine — New planting of vines — Table grapes)

In Case C-308/97,

REFERENCE to the Court under Article 177 of the EC Treaty by the PreturaCircondariale di Bari, Italy, for a preliminary ruling in the proceedings pendingbefore that court between

Giuseppe Manfredi

and

Regione Puglia

on the interpretation of Article 6(1) of Council Regulation (EEC) No 822/87 of 16March 1987 on the common organisation of the market in wine (OJ 1987 L 84, p.1),

THE COURT (Sixth Chamber),

composed of: P.J.G. Kapteyn (Rapporteur), President of the Chamber, G. Hirsch,G.F. Mancini, H. Ragnemalm and K.M. Ioannou, Judges,

Advocate General: D. Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer,


Registrar: L. Hewlett, Administrator,

after considering the written observations submitted on behalf of:

—    Mr Manfredi, by Domenico Bellantuono and Gaetano Stea, of the Bari Bar,

—    the Italian Government, by Professor Umberto Leanza, Head of the LegalDepartment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acting as Agent, and OscarFiumara, Avvocato dello Stato,

—    the Greek Government, by Ioannis Chalkias, Assistant Legal Adviser in theState Legal Service and by Chrysoula Tsiavou, Court Agent in the StateLegal Service, acting as Agents,

—    the French Government, by Kareen Rispal-Bellanger, Head ofSubdirectorate in the Legal Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of ForeignAffairs, and Frédéric Pascal, Administrative Attaché in the same directorate,acting as Agents, and

—    the Commission of the European Communities, by Ana Maria Alves Vieiraand Francesco Ruggeri Laderchi, of its Legal Service, acting as Agents,

having regard to the Report for the Hearing,

after hearing the oral observations of Mr Manfredi, represented by DomenicoBellantuono; of the Italian Government, represented by Francesca Quadri,Avvocato dello Stato; of the Greek Government, represented by Ioannis Chalkias;and of the Commission, represented by Francesco Ruggeri Laderchi, at the hearingon 9 July 1998,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 14 July 1998,

gives the following

Judgment

1.
    By order of 19 August 1997, received at the Court on 3 September 1997, thePretura Circondariale di Bari (Magistrate's Court for the District of Bari) referredfor a preliminary ruling under Article 177 of the EC Treaty a question on theinterpretation of Article 6(1) of Council Regulation (EEC) No 822/87 of 16 March1987 on the common organisation of the market in wine (OJ 1987 L 84, p. 1).

2.
    That question was raised in proceedings brought by Mr Manfredi, challengingOrdinanza-ingiunzione (enforcement order) No 2387/96/A of 3 December 1996whereby the Legal Office of the Puglia Regional Authority ordered the grubbing-upof vines of the 'Italia‘ table grape variety which he had planted withoutadministrative authorisation in 1991 and 1992 on 2.7331 hectares of land he ownedat Mola di Bari and imposed on him an administrative fine of LIT 2 763 100.

3.
    According to the Italian authorities, Mr Manfredi's conduct constituted aninfringement of Article 6(1) of Regulation No 822/87.

The Community legislation

4.
    Council Regulation (EEC) No 337/79 of 5 February 1979 on the commonorganisation of the market in wine (OJ 1979 L 54, p. 1) was amended by CouncilRegulation (EEC) No 454/80 of 18 February 1980 (OJ 1980 L 57, p. 7). Article1(1) of Regulation No 454/80 substituted a new Title III for the Title III inRegulation No 337/79, headed 'Rules concerning production and control of thedevelopment of wine- growing potential‘.

5.
    Article 30 of Regulation No 337/79, as amended by Article 1(1) of Regulation No454/80, which is part of Title III, provides:

'1.    ... all new planting of vines shall be prohibited until 30 November 1986,except on areas intended for the production of grapes obtained from varietieswhich, for the administrative unit concerned, are classified solely as table grapevarieties.‘

6.
    That provision was amended by Council Regulation (EEC) No 1208/84 of 27 April1984 (OJ 1984 L 115, p. 77). The eighth recital in the preamble to that amendingregulation states:

'Whereas, since the present table grape production potential exceeds requirements,the ban on new planting should be extended to all vines ...‘.

7.
    Article 30 of Regulation No 337/79, as amended by Article 1(11) of Regulation No1208/84, provides as follows:

'1.    All new plantings of vines shall be prohibited until 31 August 1990.

However, authorisations for new plantings may be granted by Member States forareas intended for the production of quality wines psr for which the Commissionhas recognised that production, because of their qualitative features, is far belowdemand.‘

8.
    On 16 March 1987, the Council adopted Regulation No 822/87, which, as stated inthe first recital in its preamble, consolidates the earlier legislation.

9.
    Article 6 of that regulation provides:

'1.    All new planting of vines shall be prohibited until 31 August 1990.

However, authorisations for new planting may be granted by Member States inrespect of areas intended for the production of quality wines psr production ofwhich the Commission has recognised, because of their qualitative features, asbeing far below demand.

2.    Notwithstanding paragraph 1, Member States may grant authorisations fornew planting in respect of:

—    areas intended for the cultivation of mother plantations,

—    areas intended for new planting carried out under measures for theconsolidation of holdings or measures concerning compulsory purchase inthe public interest adopted under national legislation,

—    in Member states whose production of quality wines psr during the 1975/76,1976/77 and 1977/78 wine years was less than 60% of total wine production,areas intended for new planting to be carried out under development plansmeeting the conditions laid down in Council Directive 72/159/EEC,

—    areas intended for wine-growing experiments.

3.    Grapes obtained from vines planted in violation of Community or nationalprovisions concerning new planting of vineyards within the meaning of Annex Vmay not be used for producing table wine. Products made from such grapes maybe put into circulation only for the purposes of distillation. However, these productsmay not be used in the preparation of alcohol with an actual alcoholic strength byvolume of 80 % vol or less.

4.    The recognition referred to in the second subparagraph of paragraph 1 shallbe decided on, at the request of a Member State, in accordance with the procedurelaid down in Article 83.

Detailed rules for the application of this Article shall be adopted in accordancewith the same procedure.‘

10.
    Article 6 of Regulation No 822/87 was amended by Council Regulation (EEC) No1325/90 of 14 May 1990 (OJ 1990 L 132, p. 19). The second recital in thepreamble to that regulation states as follows:

'Whereas the abovementioned ban on new planting coupled with the restriction ofthe exercise of the replanting right on the holding to the production of table wineand table grapes and cultivation of root-stock runs the risk of not allowing supplyin those areas to adapt to the development in demand ...‘.

11.
    Article 6(1) of Regulation No 822/87 as amended by Article 1(2) of Regulation No1325/90 provides:

'1.    All new planting of vines shall be prohibited until 31 August 1996.

However, authorisations for new planting for the 1990/91 wine year may be grantedby Member States in respect of areas intended for the production of quality winespsr, production of which the Commission has recognised, because of theirqualitative features, as being far below demand.‘

12.
    That version of Article 6 of Regulation No 822/87 was then amended by CouncilRegulation (EC) No 1592/96 of 30 July 1996 (OJ 1996 L 206, p. 31), the first recitalin the preamble to which states:

'Whereas all new planting of vines is prohibited until 31 August 1996; whereas, inview of the situation on the wine sector market, the existing ban should beextended by two wine years pending Council decisions on reforming the sector;whereas, however, on the one hand, there should not be included in this ban areasintended for producing table grapes and, on the other hand, derogations from theban should be introduced for certain wines which are in demand on the market onaccount of their qualitative characteristics‘.

13.
    Article 6 of Regulation No 822/87 as amended by Article 1(1) of Regulation No1592/96 provides:

'1.    Any new planting of vine varieties other than those classified, for theadministrative unit concerned, solely amongst table grape varieties shall be banneduntil 31 August 1998.

...‘

The question referred

14.
    The Pretura Circondariale di Bari took the view that the action brought byMr Manfredi challenging Ordinanza-ingiunzione No 2387/96/A raised a question asto the interpretation of Community law, and therefore stayed proceedings to askthe Court whether the prohibition of the planting of new vines laid down in Article6(1) of Council Regulation (EEC) No 822/87 of 16 March 1987 extended to vinesintended for the production of table grapes.

15.
    In order to reply to that question, it is necessary first of all to consider theamendments made by the Community legislature to Regulation No 337/79 as itstood following Regulation No 454/80.

16.
    It is clear from Article 30(1) of that regulation that, until 30 November 1986, allnew planting of vines was prohibited except the planting of varieties intended toproduce table grapes.

17.
    On 1 May 1984, that exception was repealed by Regulation No 1208/84. UnderArticle 30 of Regulation No 337/79, as amended by Article 1(11) of RegulationNo 1208/84, all new planting of vines was prohibited until 31 August 1990. It isclear from the eighth recital in the preamble to Regulation No 1208/84 that theCommunity legislature considered that, since table grape production potentialexceeded requirements, it was appropriate to extend the ban on new planting togrape varieties intended for the production of table grapes.

18.
    The ban on all planting of new vines was extended to 31 August 1990 by Article6 of Regulation No 822/87; that date was changed by Regulation No 1325/90,Article 1(2) of which extended the ban laid down by Article 6 of Regulation No822/87 until 31 August 1996.

19.
    It follows that the ban on planting new vines applied to varieties intended for theproduction of table grapes during the years 1991 and 1992.

20.
    That interpretation is borne out by Council Regulation (EEC) No 1442/88 of 24May 1988 on the granting, for the 1988/1989 to 1995/1996 wine years, of permanentabandonment premiums in respect of wine-growing areas (OJ 1988 L 132, p. 3). Under Article 1 of that regulation, holders of cultivated wine-growing areas for theproduction of table grapes form one of the categories eligible to receive apermanent abandonment premium. According to the second recital in itspreamble, it was necessary to extend the facility for abandonment to all classes ofwine-growing areas, in order to reinforce measures to reduce wine-growingpotential.

21.
    To interpret Article 6(1) of Regulation No 822/87, as amended by RegulationNo 1325/90, as not prohibiting the planting of new vines intended for theproduction of table grapes would run counter to the objective of the permanentabandonment measures laid down in Regulation No 1442/88. Indeed, as theAdvocate General has noted in points 23 to 26 of his Opinion, it is inconceivablethat the Community legislature should have omitted to prohibit the planting ofvines intended to produce table grapes and yet have encouraged the grubbing-upof such vines by means of permanent abandonment premiums.

22.
    The arguments raised before the national court against such an interpretation mustnow be examined.

23.
    The applicant in the main proceedings argued first of all that RegulationNo 822/87, as amended by Regulation No 1325/90, relates purely to wine grapes,and not to table grapes, on the ground that table grapes are not mentioned in thelist of products to which the common organisation of the market in wine appliesas set out in Article 1(2) of Regulation No 822/87.

24.
    Although Article 1(2) of Regulation No 822/87 does not mention table grapes, thatis because it covers products within the common organisation of the market inwine. However, as the Commission has rightly observed, Regulation No 822/87does not relate to the wine sector alone but to the whole of the vine-growing andwine sector.

25.
    Regulation No 822/87 is stated in Article 1(1) to contain, inter alia, rules governingproduction and control of the development of wine-growing potential. Such rulesinclude, as the preamble also makes clear, those governing the planting of vineyardsand the classification of vines, from which vineyards producing table grapes orvarieties of vine intended for the production of table grapes are not excluded.

26.
    Furthermore, as the Advocate General has observed at point 30 of his Opinion, theCommunity legislature has, in the context of the common organisation of themarket in the wine sector, adopted a number of regulations intended to controlcertain aspects of table grape production.

27.
    Secondly, the applicant in the main proceedings relies on the seventeenth recitalin the preamble to Regulation No 822/87, according to which an exemption fromthe ban on new planting operations 'is justified ... in view of their intended use, inthe case of new planting of vine varieties classified solely as table grape varieties‘.

28.
    As the Commission has pointed out, Regulation No 822/87, which consolidates theearlier legislation, reproduced the ninth recital in the preamble to Regulation No454/80, which referred to the derogation provided for in respect of table grapesunder Regulation No 337/79 before the ban on planting new vines was extendedby Regulation No 1208/84 to varieties intended for the production of table grapes.

29.
    It must therefore be observed that, since varieties intended for the production oftable grapes were no longer exempted from the ban on planting new vines whenRegulation No 822/87 was adopted, the relevant part of the seventeenth recital inthe preamble to that regulation does not correspond to any of the provisions whichit contains. As the Advocate General has noted at point 36 of his Opinion, this isa mistake which was made when consolidating the earlier legislation.

30.
    In those circumstances, that recital cannot be relied upon to interpret Article 6(1)of Regulation No 822/87, as amended by Regulation No 1325/90, in a mannerclearly contrary to its wording.

31.
    Finally, Mr Manfredi argued that Article 1(1) of Regulation No 1592/96 amendedArticle 6(1) of Regulation No 822/87 to authorise new plantings of table grapevarieties from 1 September 1996.

32.
    In that connection, it must be noted that the derogation from the ban on plantingnew vines in respect of table grape varieties inserted by Regulation No 1592/96provides confirmation that new plantings of such varieties were prohibited prior to1 September 1996, as is also clear from the first recital in the preamble toRegulation No 1592/96.

33.
    In addition, Article 1(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1595/96 of 30 July 1996amending Regulation No 1442/88 (OJ 1996 L 206, p. 36) provides for thediscontinuance of permanent abandonment premiums for holders of wine-growingareas intended for the production of table grapes. It is clear from the third recitalin the preamble to Regulation No 1595/96 that the exclusion of areas intended forthe production of table grapes from entitlement to permanent abandonmentpremiums was necessary because after 1 September 1996 those areas were nolonger included in the scope of the ban on any new vine planting within themeaning of Article 6 of Regulation No 822/87, as amended by Regulation No1592/96.

34.
    Finally, with regard to the Italian Government's request that sanctions should notapply to wine growers who infringed the ban in Article 6(1) of RegulationNo 822/87 in the belief that it did not extend to table grape varieties, it need onlybe observed that it is for the national court to decide whether there was anexcusable error and to determine the consequences.

35.
    In view of the foregoing, the reply to the question referred is that, for the years1991 and 1992, Article 6(1) of Regulation No 822/87, as amended by RegulationNo 1325/90, prohibited new plantations of vines intended for the production oftable grapes.

Costs

36.
    The costs incurred by the Italian, Greek and French Governments and by theCommission, which have submitted observations to the Court, are not recoverable.Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in theaction pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for thatcourt.

On those grounds,

THE COURT (Sixth Chamber),

in answer to the question referred to it by the Pretura Circondariale di Bari by order of 19 August 1997, hereby rules:

For the years 1991 and 1992, Article 6(1) of Council Regulation (EEC) No 822/87of 16 March 1987 on the common organisation of the market in wine, as amendedby Council Regulation (EEC) No 1325/90 of 14 May 1990, prohibited newplantations of vines intended for the production of table grapes.

Kapteyn
Hirsch
Mancini

Ragnemalm

Ioannou

Delivered in open court in Luxembourg on 25 November 1998.

R. Grass

P.J.G. Kapteyn

Registrar

President of the Sixth Chamber


1: Language of the case: Italian.