The recently christened Kaefferkopf wine growing area is the first grand cru in Alsace to face a court challenge, according to local news reports.

When the historic Kaefferkopf region – famous for its blends – became the 51st grand cru area in Alsace in January 2006, 15ha were excluded from the designation.

Now 37 producers from the excluded region – who once sold their wines under the Kaefferkopf name and are now forced to label their bottles as simple ‘wines of Alsace’ – are challenging the designation.

The 68ha region, located in the southern Alsace commune of Ammerschwir, is the first grand cru designation to be legally contested, according to the regional newspaper Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace.

Winemaker Jean Pierre Kappler, who represents the group mounting the challenge, said, ‘The borders were not determined seriously. Losing this name will lose us money.’

When the the grand cru qualification was first set up in 1983, Kaefferkopf was not considered eligible because judges considered blends less worthy. The viticulture area of Kaefferkopf was first designated in 1932.

‘It is great that they finally recognize that blends of grand cru grapes [Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris] can also be considered grand cru, but why not accept the whole historically designated viticulture area?’ Kappler said.

The new grand cru area was determined by an expert committee authorised by the French appellation authority the INAO, based on exposure to sun, elevation and soil types.

Alsace’s grand cru classification system has stirred controversy before. It is shunned by some top producers such as Trimbach, a domaine which owns renowned vineyards such as Clos Ste-Hune, which easily qualify as grand cru.

A court in Colmar will issue a decision on Kaefferkopf on 5 March.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Alsace