Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Oui, Oui, That's Fine By Me!

In a recent edition of Robin Garr's 30 second Wind Advisor newsletter, he discussed simplifying French wine. Authorities have proposed consolidating the current appellations into a somewhat simplified three-tier system.

• The third (bottom) tier will consist of "vins de table" (table wines). Beginning with the 2009 vintage, "vins de table" will be allowed to show grape variety and vintage on their labels. Grapes may be blended from any part of France. There will no longer be any constraints on production methods, for example on yields and irrigation, other than those of international wine industry norms (e.g. the banning of flavouring additives, certain chemical stabilisers, etc.) It is hoped that this will permit the appearance of French commercial wine brands to compete with those of the New World. The old regional "Vins de Pays" designation will disappear progressively after 2009.

• The second tier will consist of "vins de territoire" (territorial wines). Into this category will fall the more ambitious artisan-produced wines which are "vins de pays" at present; existing regional appellations such as "Bordeaux" and "Bourgogne," and regroupings of existing lesser AOCs. An example of the last is the regrouping into "CĂ´tes de Bordeaux" of the appellations Blaye, Castillon, Cadillac and Francs. As many as 50 to 100 appellations are expected to disappear in the next few years. The creation of new appellations will not be allowed.

• The first (top) tier will consist of "vins de terroir" (terroir wines) which will reinforce the AOC system at the top level. The intention is to guarantee quality as well as origin. New style-tasting committees for accepting or refusing wines will replace local vignerons, considered too subject to complaisance with poor quality and jealousy of outstanding performers, with presumably more independent judges such as journalists, oenologists, wine merchants and the like. The AOCs will draw up new specifications to replace existing decrees; it is intended that these should be in place for the 2008 vintage.