Up to one in three AC wines in France do not deserve to be part of the appellation, according to the country's influential consumer group, UFC Que Choisir.
Its report, published online last week, threatens to plunge French winemaking into a fresh crisis as the country fights to win back consumers at home and abroad.
Alain Bazot, head of Que Choisir, accused the industry of ‘undermining consumer confidence’ by allowing too many wines to carry the AC label. Figures from 2005 show 99% of applicants gained AC status, he said, adding that consumers also struggled to navigate France’s 462 AC regions.
Bazot’s views found support among winemakers. More than a third of industry professionals surveyed agreed that AC was meaningless as a quality mark, the consumer group claimed.
And nearly two thirds said ACs were not linked to regional ‘terroir’, the founding premise of the system back in 1935.
Charles Blagden, a wine merchant based in Provence, told decanter.com, ‘The original system was created with good intentions and there are still some excellent wines. But the problems came when they added bits on to areas like Bordeaux and Burgundy. They’ve added far too much and the methods of policing it are not sufficient.’
He said current practice where local producers also often sit on AC judging panels was ‘a bit of a joke’.
Pressure is already growing on France’s appellation authority, INAO, to speed up reforms and hand AC producers the tools to regain markets.
Jean Clavel, who helped create the first AC in Languedoc, said INAO was ‘out of touch with the modern wine world’. INAO angered winemakers last year by insisting against the use of oak chips in AC wine, despite the practice gaining approval across the EU.
Written by Chris Mercer