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French fear ‘chateau’ may be allowed on non-estate imports

French wine producers are preparing a defence against the possibility the EU may allow US imported wines to be called chateau or clos.

Writing on the wall? EU to rule on use of ‘château’ on imports

The decision will be taken as part of a wider meeting on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms at the European Parliament in Brussels on 25 September.

French producers say that allowing American wine producers to sell their wines in Europe using the French words château or clos would be an attack on French heritage – and competitive advantage.

In France, use of the term château is subject to strict control – it must refer to an AOC wine coming only from grapes that are harvested and vinified on a single estate.

In the United States there is no regulation – an estate can call itself a château even if it is buying in grapes from other growers in different regions.

Yann le Goaster, director of Federation des Grands Vins de Bordeaux, told Decanter.com: ‘Clearly in Bordeaux, we have been using the word château since the mid 19th century. It is part of our heritage, not just a marketing term, and we are determined to fight this.

‘The European Union should defend the rights of the members of its community.’

He said there was further concern that it could lead to other countries also using the terms château, cru, domaine or hospices on their labels, further confusing consumers.

‘This decision could render these terms meaningless. This is not just about Bordeaux, it concerns wine makers across France’.

In Burgundy, the Confederation des Appellations et des Vignerons de Bourgogne said in a statement, ‘Clos, a word which is truly part of Burgundy’s identity and heritage, is set to be tarnished by the European Commission… Burgundy winemakers strongly condemn this American initiative.’

Château Montelena, one of the most renowned ‘château’ wines in the US said that as export accounts for only 7% of its overall business, it did not have an official position on the subject.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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