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French national vin de pays revived

A new category of French vin de pays will be revived for the 2005 harvest, a senior government advisor and winemaker said today.

Cepage de France, the concept that has bedevilled French wine politics for several years, will be revived, if not under that name, Bruno Kessler of Grands Chais de France told decanter.com.

Speaking at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, Kessler – a director of GCF and also an advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries – said there should be an announcement ‘in two or three weeks.’

‘We need a new category of wine under which we can adapt the French offer to any market,’ he said.

The concept of a national vin de pays – one that will allow blending between different regions and which may be called Vin de Pays de France or Cepage de France – is anathema to many growers.

They see it as diluting regionality, and – especially in the south of France – vigorously oppose it.

It is this resistance that has killed off the concept in the past. In October 2003 it was labelled a ‘no-go’ area by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Now the idea has been revived, but ‘it has been a long fight,’ Kessler said.

Other major figures have been behind the idea from the beginning. Jean-Marie Chadronnier of Dourthe said, ‘What is important is that things are kept simple. We should be able to say, This is a merlot from France. Period. We shouldn’t have to explain the wine to the consumer.’

Kessler said that the survival of France depends on selling wine in the supermarkets. While 30% of wine is regionally labelled, the vast majority is branded. France has to take its share of that market – but at present it does not have the means.

‘If you’re not on the shelves you can continue to dream your dream. The reality is market share. In France we don’t have the tools to adapt our wines to all markets.’

The key issue, Kessler said, is the idea of ‘wine of freedom’ – une espace de liberte. Negociants and those responsible for selling wine should be free to market it without interference from growers. ‘We will decide what is good for the market. A grower with 10ha of grapes should not tell me how to market wine in Germany.’

Written by Adam Lechmere in Bordeaux

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