Up-and-Coming Changes to French Appellation Rules

Jacques Gautier, Regional Director of the INAO for the Gironde

The principal concept of being part of an appellation in France involves  having a ‘typicity’ from a particular region which raises these particular products above the standard. This includes both naturally occurring factors such as soil and micro-climate and factors that are man-made eg particular production techniques. One of the most recent appellations in the Gironde to be given the go-ahead is Cremant de Bordeaux in 1990 and Pessac-Leognan in 1987. Currently the INAO is studying the dossier of the Cotes de Bordeaux who want to group the Cotes (Ste Foy, Blaye, Castillon, Premieres Cotes etc) despite having different soils and production regulations.

It is the INAO who decides the boundaries of the appellation and how it can enlarge (‘delimitation’). The appellation of Bordeaux has increased by 50% since 1980 whereas Champagne has not increased at all but is currently looking at expansion. The INAO polices this and regulates the production techniques which ensures the ‘typicity’. This involves lengthy tastings of every wine. Currently successful wines receive a ‘Certificat d’Agrement’.

On the first of July 2008 it is all going to change.The INAO will be called the Institut National de l’Origine et de la qualité. Today the INAO only award you an AOC if your wine is up to scratch. Every wine is tasted be Chateau Margaux or a basic Bordeaux. Panels of tasters give the thumbs up (or down) to the wines that they taste blind (rejected wines have a further chances with more generic appellations). The wines are tasted early in their development before they have been blended generally or some may go on to be aged in oak. The wine that ends up in the bottle will be undoubtedly a different beast. This is part of the problem and one of the reasons for the change.

From first July 2008 wines will not be systematically checked. The emphasis will be on conformity of vineyards and winemaking equipment with spot checks at the property and with random tastings. No longer such a ‘nanny-state’ set-up. “The responsibility will be with the producer like a Dr or an oenologist” says Jacques Gautier regional director of the INAO for the Gironde, the body in charge of the new and old system. A body of Inspection (Organisme d’inspection) will be set up independently whose sole role is to check the producers (wines and set-ups). These bodies are controlled by the INAO but will be independently run. They are not sure what the ‘punishment’ will be if your wines or set-uo do not comply.


‘Agrement Tasting’ of 2006 Bordeaux  Red Wines with Yves Chevalier, INAO

Out of 16 wines, 9 were not acceptable and showed the following wine faults;‘Assescence’ from ethyl acetate (acetate d’ethyl) with its solvent aromas, High volatile Acidity from acetic acid (acide acetique), IBMP smell of green pepper (poivron vert) of unripe grapes, Herbaceousness/vegetal stalks/green apple from (hexanale), Excessive use of wood (bois excessif) with its strong aromas of green plank and its astringence, Phenolic aromas of stable and sweat which masks fruit.


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