Renou will push reforms 'to the limit'

  • Tuesday 4 January 2005

French appellations chief René Renou is determined to push his reforms through – and has slammed the great regions for believing they have ‘divine right’ not to change.

Renou, president of the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine), told decanter.com, his controversial proposals for reforming the appellations system had suffered a ‘predictable counter-attack’.

The proposals, which Renou presented to producers across France last year, encountered widespread opposition. They included making AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) regulations more flexible, and introducing a new, tougher category of AOC d’Excellence.

Despite the opposition, Renou insists there is consensus that the basic rules need updating.

‘Even my opponents agree about one thing: the decrets d’appellation (the local rules governing each AOC) badly need to be rewritten. So I have told them each local producers’ group should rewrite its own rules in such a way that they can stick to them in future’.

The rewriting process started in autumn 2004, with the aim of completing it by March 2005. Renou won’t say exactly how many local groups have so far started, but remains optimistic. ‘I’m a great believer in the lever effect. If even just 10% get going on this, it will stimulate others to move too’.

He hopes that the process of rewriting their decrets d’appellation will lead local producers to consider his ideas for new AOC and AOCE categories in greater depth.

Without naming names, he makes it clear that many of France’s most reputed appellations, including Bordeaux and Burgundy Grands Crus, are refusing to budge. ‘They behave as though they have the divine right to do as they please.’

And he goes as far as to suggest he will resign if their intransigence proves impossible to shift. ‘If they don’t budge, I’m off. But in the meantime, I’m determined to push this to the limit. I’m from Anjou and we’re renowned for our stubbornness.’

Since France’s AOC laws were codified in 1936, the number of AOCs has increased to 467. Around 98% of AOC wines routinely receive agrément (approval), but Renou estimates in some areas 20% of those are not up to standard.

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