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Burgundy can’t agree on AOC reforms

Growers and producers from Burgundy's main trade body have given a hostile reaction to INAO president René Renou’s plans for AOC reform.

Renou presented the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) proposals – which include the framework of the new AOC, AOC d’Excellence (AOCE) and Site et Terroir d’Excellence proposals – to a packed meeting last week.

Renou predicted that ‘part of the French vineyard area will disappear’ as a result of the crisis surrounding the French wine industry in the face of surplus production and competition from the New World.

Burgundy wines would fall into two distinct groups, Renou said: the modern branded commodity, and those at the top end.

Renou now advocates the use of varietal names on labels for regional appellation wines in order to appeal to international consumers. He also hints at the possibility of a Vin de Pays category for cross-regional blends or declassified wine: this is what has been termed an ‘honourable way out’ for unwanted production. At the same time this should ensure quality is maintained at the top levels.

Reactions from union representatives were negative – they see their drive to increase sales being hamstrung by added layers of complexity and bureaucracy.

‘I see this creating greater complexity, whereas we want to simplify the wines we offer the public,’ Jean-Michel Aubinel, who represents growers in Macon, adding that the Site et Terroir d’excellence scheme would entrench rivalry between neighbouring properties if applied to one and not the other.

Côte d’Or growers said they were concerned about the haste with which the plans were drawn up and the way quality checks would be imposed. They also said they were opposed to the introduction of Vin de Pays in the region.

‘Too much control kills control,’ said Damien Gachot of the Union Générale des Syndicats.

BIVB (Bureau Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bourgogne) members will consider the pros and cons of the reforms over the summer. Renou has given them a deadline of early 2005 at the latest to present him with modifications and concrete proposals for putting the plans in place.

BIVB president Jean-Francois Delorme said, ‘We’re not against these reforms, just expressing doubts. The growers are aware they need to do something to adapt themselves better to the demands of today’s market. René Renou’s message has been well receive: we need to create a new context and vision.’

Written by Richard James in Burgundy

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