Regional Burgundy wines should be keep the varietal name on the bottle, according to French négociant Louis Latour.
At present producers in regional Burgundy appellations are allowed to state the grape variety on the label. This right is coming under attack from the INAO(Institut Nationale des Appellations d’Origine) .
But with New World producers increasing their export figures, many in Burgundy now believe varietal labelling is the way forward.
In a wide-ranging interview, Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of Maison Louis Latour, one of Burgundy’s oldest wine houses, and president of the syndicat of Burgundy negociants, set out his deeply-held wish to see French labelling restrictions modernised.
He returned again and again to his belief that regional-level Burgundy had to be able to label varietally in order to compete internationally.
‘People who are against us say we are behaving like the Australians or the New Zealanders. We say we want to have Gevrey-Chambertin and Certan-Chambertin but when it comes to straight Bourgogne red and white then we need to compete.’
‘Ninety-five per cent of Burgundians support us. We want also to make wines which, like the New World wines, please the modern consumer,’ Latour told decanter.com.
However, the INAO – which regulates the allocation of appellation status – is resisting.
‘There is a debate in the INAO between those who agree with us and those who don’t. And unfortunately we don’t have 100% either for or against.’
While the regional INAO bodies have an advisory role, the final decision lies with national INAO in Paris. But Latour complains that a centralised body is making decisions on behalf of a region it thinks it knows.
‘It is a representation of the region in Paris,’ said Latour, adding it would better for the regional INAO to make the decision.
Initial predictions look good for those in favour of a varietal labelling. Like Latour, however, many Burgundians believe that established names and appellations should not have to ‘modernise’ their entire range to include varietal denomination.
At the same time Latour pointed out that if Macon Chardonnay were to lose the ‘Chardonnay’ name, hundreds of people would be out of work in that region.
‘If there is one area where they want to keep the varietal name it is in Macon. There is a big proportion of Macon which is sold under the Chardonnay name and if they can’t do it any more they will be in the deepest recession ever.’
Written by Oliver Styles and Adam Lechmere