|Photo credit: ALAMY|
In France, wine labelled “chateau” is associated with a product entirely made from grapes grown on a “terroir” – a specific patch of land- giving it a unique identity and flavour.
But a new proposal by the European Commission, to be addressed later this month, would allow American wines made with a mixture of grapes purchased from different growers, to use the title as well.
A committee of representatives from the Bordeaux region were among the first to denounce the initiative, which they claim would confuse French consumers, and ruin the tradition of chateau wine production.
Representatives, who base much of their sales on the use of coveted chateau titles in their region, are to meet on Monday in an attempt to push the French government to veto the initiative.
“There is a great danger that the notion of the chateau will disappear in France … the consumer is going to feel lost,” said Laurent Gapenne, president of an organisation that guarantees wine labels represent their geographic origin and quality in the Gironde region, which includes Bordeaux.
Speaking to Le Parisien newspaper, Mr Gapenne added that the “chateau” label accounts for up to four fifths of sales for winemakers across France, because it represents “a reference of quality” for consumers.
“It is unthinkable that the European Commission, which is supposed to defend our interests, approves of this measure,” he said. “In the United States it’s different, they use the term chateau to create a brand name like Coca Cola or Nike.”
Mr Gapenne said the proposal was made as part of an “exchange” that would allow European wine producers to rely more on the American labelling system, which traditionally highlights grape variety, rather than where the fruit was grown. He said that if Stéphane Le Foll, the French agriculture minister, refuses to fight the measure, wine producers could seek legal action.
French winemakers also fear that if the move is successful it could spread to other countries, and spike competition with American wines. “Today the importation of American wines in France is marginal. That could change with this opening,” said Mr Gapenne. Bernard Farges, vice president of the Federation of Great Wines of Bordeaux, said: “Such an authorisation could create a precedent for the ensemble of the terms synonymous with winemaking,” such as ‘cru’ (vintage) and ‘domain,’ among others.”
EU representatives in charge of the measure could not be reached for comment. The European Commission’s Common Organization of Agricultural Markets will preside over the discussion of the measure later this month.”
Source: The Telegraph.co.uk, written by Devorah Lauter, Paris