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Alsace divided by INAO ruling

The INAO’s decision to allow Alsace producers the option not to indicate grapes used for grand cru wines has divided opinion in the region.

The decision – which was issued on 21 March – is welcomed by winemakers favouring terroir, but others fear it belittles varietals and will confuse consumers.

The new INAO (the French appellation authority) regulation authorises all 50 grand cru terroirs – which make up 4% of all Alsace wine produced in 2004 – to release their wines without a grape varietal on the label. Hitherto, all grand cru Alsace wines have been required to list grape variety on the label.

Oenologist Marie-Hélène Christofaro of grand cru Domaine Marcel Deiss – whose labels do not identify the grapes – said the optional terroir emphasis is good news, but other winemakers disagree.

‘It’s ridiculous,’ said Pierre Trimbach of Maison Trimbach in Ribeauvillé. ‘If Alsace wines do not include grape names on their labels, the consumer will be lost. No one is going to follow through on this except Deiss.’

‘The decision is abusive,’ said Laurence Faller, winemaker at Domaine Weinbach in Keysersberg. ‘Our varietals are adapted to our terroirs, so each grape has an affinity to a specific terroir. Both are important.’

Jean-Paul Goulby, director of the Alsace Viticulture Association, said that the decision was pushed by INAO president Rene Renou, who wants to ‘bring the grand terroirs of Alsace in line with the rest of France.’

Most French wines make no mention of grape varietal, at least not on the front label.

‘I suspect that most Alsace winemakers will still release wines with grapes named on the label – at least at first – because the decision could create confusion for customers,’ Goulby added.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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