Negociant and winemaker Michel Chapoutier has been named president of the AOC Cotes du Rhone and Vallee du Rhone, encompassing 5,000 wine estates and €1.4bn in annual sales.

Chapoutier – who was standing unopposed – was elected on Friday morning (7 November) on a three-year mandate. He takes over from Christian Paly, president for the past six years.

Paly is a winemaker, running the cooperative cellar Les Vignerons de Tavel, which means that, according to custom, the presidency must now switch to a merchant.

Among Chapoutier’s plans for the next three years is an increased focus on getting younger generations involved in winemaking in the Rhone through start-up grants or priority access to vineyard land, according to a speech that he gave following his election.

Chapoutier has in the past been vocal in his desire to help the next generation of winemakers.

He told Decanter.com in an interview a few months ago, ‘The biggest problem facing French vineyards is the crisis of young winemakers who don’t want to join family vineyards, because the rewards for hard work is concentrated in the hands of the few people lucky enough to have been born into historic grand cru land, or rich enough to buy into it. The system is stacked’.

His other priorities are to include more effective sharing of market information across the region.

Many observers also expect him to champion the introduction of Premier and Grand Cru wines to the best sites of the region. It is a subject that was raised under Paly’s presidency and Chapoutier has previously voiced his support.

Written by Jane Anson