The appellation system has become meaningless, a confederation of independent winemakers heard last week.

At the first annual meeting of the European Confederation of Independent Winemakers (CEVI) in Paris, leading wine economist Patrick Aigrain said the appellation system had been rendered moribund because of proliferation of AOCs.

‘Three quarters of all wine produced in Europe now bears a specific geographic reference. The more this happens, the more devalued it becomes, and the less consumers want to pay for it,’ he said.

He added that consumption of AOC wines had stagnated within traditional wine drinking countries such as France.

‘We wanted to use AOC to help differentiate our offering in the New World, but now they have it too.’

France has hung its hat for the last 30 years on the AOC system, and there are now 450 AOCs, and 140 vins de pays. It’s no wonder, Aigrain said, that the consumer – the vast majority of whom are not wine experts and have no interest in becoming so – are confused and turned off.

CEVI, formed in 2002, brings together independent wine makers from France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Portugal. Languedoc winemaker Xavier de Volantat is its president.

Its role is primarily to lobby Brussels for the rights of independent wine makers, and to influence the reworking of the EU wine laws due to begin in 2006.

  • The Syndicat of Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior also held its annual general meeting last week, and floated similarly radical ideas. Labelled ‘Project 2009’, Alain Vironneau, the president of the Syndicat, declared that wine makers should be allowed to use oak chips, artificial additives and, most far-reaching, that the 85%/15% rule should apply in Bordeaux. This, he argued, should be allowable both for vintage and for grape variety.

    ‘Brussels will have to decide,’ said Vironneau, ‘but we are just asking that our wine makers can follow the same oenological practices as are common around the world.’

    Written by Jane Anson