The AOC reform will fail if the French wine appellation system refuses to redefine its market segments.

In an article in the French language section of Marc Parcé, winemaker at Banyuls and Maury (Domaine de la Rectorie and Préceptorie de Centernach) and one of the leaders of the winemaker’s association Sève, has pointed out the risks of the AOC reform being prepared by INAO, the French government body in charge of regulating appellations for food and wine.

In his reading of the recent reports from INAO and CNAOC (the national confederation of AOCs) concerning the specifications and the plans for inspections and controls on wine, all the positive points of the reform have been diluted or removed, while the most dubious ones, especially those that will bring a leveling down of all wines, remain.

In France each appellation now has an ODG (organization for its defense and management), but according to Marc these are not much different from the old « syndicats de cru », where in the name of some kind of democratic principles the majority (of bulk producers) ruled and any dissenting voices, usually coming from the best winemakers in the appellation, were ignored or suppressed, in fact they were not even invited to the debates.
The main feature of this reform is that tastings are being reintroduced as well as organoleptic tests. The reports seem to exclude any possibility of positive changes in the appellation system.

“The reform does not change the principle according to which tastings are the main instrument for controlling production in particular concerning AOCs.” (INAO)

Sève had organized a conference in Banyuls with neurobiologist Patrick MacLeod and statistician Marc Danzart, and had demonstrated amply the limits of sensorial analysis as applied to controlling appellation wines. The reforms proposed by Gérard Boesch were a step in the right direction because based on the idea that tastings cannot be one of the main elements in the recognition and validation of the quality procedures of a winemaker; instead, it is the analysis of how the wines are made that he recognized as essential in approving a winery’s product. This new declaration by INAO is a catastrophic regression and signals a return to standardization and homogenization of wines through tastings.

Even the CNAOC has come out with statements that show how, with the excuse that there is no time for anything but small cosmetic changes, in fact nothing will change!

Marc Parcé point out that Sève had given its support to this reform, because it seemed to contain the seeds of a renaissance based on quality, one that was coherent with the philosophy of Joseph Capus: that we need to defend this meritocracy because it has allowed many winemakers, through the appellations that are part of the French heritage, to make some of the best wines in the world.

On the contrary, by delaying necessary reforms and returning to organoleptic analysis, a procedure whose limits and deficiencies have been amply demonstrated, we will go back to the rule of mediocrity which constitutes a profound injustice towards winemakers that defend viticulture of terroir.

The reform being prepared today should only concern the segment of IGP wines in France, in other words the “vin de pays” plus bulk wines, and even for these wines the procedures are deficient.

If nothing is done soon to voluntarily define and impose specifications for what constitutes a terroir wine, an AOP in the language of the imminent EU regulation, then this reform will crush terroir winemakers and force them to define their own rules and their own marketing in order to survive.

While hoping that the spirit of reform can be maintained, Marc Parcé suggests reading two documents, also published on
Assessing French appellations: do AOCs today bear any relation to what their creators imagined?
Freeing the taste of AOC wines from the shackles of “organoleptic profiling”

At Sève we are working for a renaissance of appellations, not to bury them

Marc Parcé, Banyuls, 22 august 2007

This entry was posted in Wine and tagged aoc, reform, Wine on by .

About Mike Tommasi

~~~EN I live in Provence, around Bandol AOC, on the shores of the Mediterranean. My profession, which has nothing to do with wine or food, allows me to travel a lot, plus I am a volunteer organizer of Slow Food, so I organize food and wine events and I am lucky to have plenty of occasions to sample all the wonderful terroirs of the world. I created this blog as a community outlet for stories and information about wine and food, with a lot of help from my friends. ~~~FR Je vis sur le littoral de Provence, atour de l'AOC Bandol. Ma profession, qui n'a rien àvoir avec le vin ou l'alimentation, m'oblige à voyager loin et souvent ; en plus, en tant que bénévole de l'association Slow Food. Ainsi, j'organise pas mal d'événements oeno-culinaires, et j'ai la fortune d'avoir pas mal d'occasions pour découvrir toutes les bonnes choses issues des terroirs du monde entier. J'ai créé ce blog comme véhicule pour un groupe d'amis collaborateurs qui aiment raconter des histoires sur le vin et le bon manger. ~~~IT Abito in Provenza mediterranea, vicino alla AOC Bandol. La mia professione, che non ha nulla a che vedere con il vino o il mangiare, mi permette di viaggiare spesso e dappertutto, e in più sono un organizzatore dell'associazione Slow Food, quindi organizzo eventi eno-gastronomici e ho molte occasioni per scoprire gli eccellenti prodotti dei numerosi terroir del mondo. Ho creato questo blog come veicolo per una comunità di amici che amano scrivere sul vino e sul buon mangiare.

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