In the last twenty years, the increased production and consumption of table grapes and wines has partly been encouraged by the amply demonstrated beneficial effects of these foods on human health. The effects of moderate wine consumption on some categories of illness, such as cardiovascular diseases, degeneration of the brain due to ageing, and certain carcinogenic diseases, have been studied. The Organisation Internationale De la Vigne et Du Vin (O.I.V.) reports that raisins are one source of food with which to fight hunger in the world.
The efforts of the largest grape- and wine-producing countries are focused on improving product quality, rather than on increasing production, in order to remain competitive with emerging countries by better systematic positioning of ‘premium’ and ‘super premium’ wines in market niches. In this sphere, viticulture aims at improving grape quality by means of appropriate growing techniques, selection of the best clones and varieties, and study of environmental influences on vineyards. The main efforts of enology are devoted toward optimizing industrial processes: enhancement of grape compound extraction in wine-making, the best ways of achieving alcohol and malolactic fermentation, and barrel- and bottle-ageing all aim at obtaining products with particular characteristics and well-defined identities.
The legislation of the European Community and of single countries is devoted to protecting consumer health and internal markets from the sometimes harmful effects which may be caused by low-quality products. As a consequence, in order to export wines and wine-derived products, quality certificates are required (analysis of contents of pesticides, heavy metals, toxins, etc), for which legal limits are defined. The current activity of researchers and control organisms is also devoted to detecting adulterated products and illegal additives, and to verifying the proper match between the true characteristics of products and their producers’ declarations (variety, geographic origin, quality, vintage, etc).