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French appellation body considers Alsace Premier Cru plan

The French national appellation authority is examining a dossier that would create Cru and Premier Cru tiers in Alsace, but not all winemakers agree with the proposal.

Should Alsace vineyards be divided further into Cru and Premier Cru?

If approved by appellation body INOQ and also the European Union, Alsace Cru and Alsace Premier Cru would join the 53 existing appellations in the region – the regional Alsace AC, 51 Grand Cru ACs and Alsace Cremant.

The Alsace Vintners Association, which agreed the new terroir-driven hierarchy last year, is ‘putting together dossiers’ for each individual request for classification under proposed new tiers, said Olivier Humbrecht, of leading estate Domaine Zind Humbrecht and a strong proponent of the change.

Well over 100 applications to both categories have been submitted. ‘There is no official limit to the number of applications, but it is safe to say that not all will be accepted,’ Humbrecht said.

Currently, the Alsace AC allows producers in a specifically defined area – or lieu dit – to print more geographical information on labels. There are also 13 recognised communal names that need to meet more stringent production standards, but these are not separate ACs.

Not everyone supports the new proposal. Remy Gresser, of Domaine Remy Gresser and former president of the regional wine body, CIVA, said that the new ACs would ‘confuse consumers’. He would prefer to increase the number of Alsace Grand Cru ACs instead.

Humbrecht said the new hierarchy would give consumers a more precise understanding of Alsatian terroir.

The new ACs would include specific requirements on yields, planting densities and minimum alcohol levels more stringent than for Alsace AC. Premier Cru would be above Alsace Cru, but below Grand Cru.

‘We are at the beginning of the process,’ said Sophie Barmes, of Domaine Barmes Buecher in Wettolsheim. The new ACs would be a ‘logical’ follow up to 2011, when each Alsace Grand Cru lieu dit was recognised as an individual AC, she said.

It may take several years for a decision to be reached.

See also:

Subscribe to the March issue of Decanter magazine, out now, to see the top Alsace Rieslings picked out by an expert panel tasting.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Strasbourg

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