In 2008, the European Union (EU) voted to liberalize its system of planting rights, which has strictly regulated vine plantings in the EU. However, after an intense lobbying campaign, the liberalization of the planting rights system was overturned in 2013, and new regulations could create an even more restrictive system. European wine associations have complained about the detrimental effects of the new regulations. There is a precedent in history. In 1726, the French political philosopher and landowner Montesquieu complained to the French king about the prohibition on planting new vines. Montesquieu was not successful in his demands to remove the system of planting rights. Old and recent history suggests that political forces against liberalization of planting rights are very strong. Only the French Revolution in 1789 led to a fundamental liberalization of planting rights. The “liberal period” of the nineteenth century was sustained by the combination of the French Revolution's liberal ideology, the thirst of Napoleon's armies for wine, and diseases that wiped out most of the French vineyards.
That said, in the past and the present, enforcement of planting rights is a major problem. In fact, despite the official restrictions, Montesquieu managed to plant his vines, allowing him to become a successful wine producer and merchant, to travel, and to spend time thinking, discussing, and ultimately writing up his ideas that influenced much of the Western world's constitutions. (JEL Classifications: K23, L51, N43, N54, Q18)