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16 July 2004

Burgundy growers disagree with proposals for AOC reform

Burgundy growers disagree with proposals for AOC reform

A version of this news item first appeared on Decanter.com on 16/7/2004.

Growers and producers from the BIVB, the region’s main trade body, issued their initial reactions to President of the INAO – the organisation that sets and enforces the rules for French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée wines – René Renou’s plans for AOC reform, presented at a packed meeting last week. Renou reiterated his message about the crisis surrounding the French wine industry in the face of surplus production and cut-throat competition from the New World, predicting “part of the French vineyard area will disappear.” There would be two distinct paths for Burgundy wines: the modern branded commodity route and those at the top end.
On the one hand, Renou now advocates the use of varietal names on labels for regional appellation wines, thus appealing to consumers internationally; while hinting at a Vin de Pays category for cross-regional blends or declassified wine. Measures providing an “honourable way out” for unwanted production are on the cards. On the other, higher quality standards will be resurrected within the new AOC framework, AOC d’Excellence and Site et Terroir d’excellence proposals. A complicated hierarchy of village then Premier and Grand Cru wines already exists in Burgundy based on specific sites and ‘terroir’. “I see this creating greater complexity, whereas we want to simplify the wines we offer,” commented Jean-Michel Aubinel, who represents growers in Macon, adding that the Site et Terroir d’excellence scheme would entrench rivalry between neighbouring properties if applied to one and not the other.
Côte d’Or growers also expressed concerns about the apparent haste and the way quality checks would be imposed, as well as opposition to the introduction of Vin de Pays in the region. BIVB members will debate the pros and cons of Renou’s plans over the summer, with a view to getting reforms off the ground by early 2005 at the latest. Jean-François Delorme, President of the BIVB added: “We’re not against these reforms, just expressing doubts. The growers are aware they need to do something to adapt themselves better to the demands of today’s market. René Renou’s message has been well received; we need to find a new context and vision.”

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.