The appellations system is ‘losing its impact’, the INAO chief told an influential audience of wine decision-makers at Vinexpo.

Réné Renou, president of the INAO (the National Institute of Appellations), said major changes had to occur in the regionally-based system of quality control

‘AOC remains the reference, but it is losing its impact – particulary among new consumers,’ he said.

Renou reassured seminar attendees by saying that AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlée) was essential for defining the vibrant diversity of French wine.

He went on to list numerous failings such as the confusing abundance of AOCs in the face of the simplicity of varietal labelling.

Renou went on to attack the often haphazard quality of the wines in the bottles, the complex and badly understood system of quality control and the lack of investment in marketing campaigns.

He proposed a number of changes intended to restore credibility in five key areas including a fundamental rewriting of the rules and regulations that cover the 407 individual AOCs, a refocussing of the controlling regional bodies to ensure they protect the wine more than the winemaker and a more commercial-friendly system of quality control at each stage of production.

The head of the INAO also wanted increased penalties for growers who fail to meet the basic quality requirements of their wines and vineyards as well as better protection of the country’s terroir and environment.

A lively debate ensued with winemakers frightened that the new measures would add more layers of bureaucracy.

Renou dismissed this. ‘The objective is to raise the quality of AOCs and everyone stands to benefit if we succeed,’ he said.

Written by Jane Anson