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Oak chips to be allowed in French wine

Oak chips are to be allowed in French wine under new government plans to adapt wine to the international market.

The plans will alter the way wines in France are categorized, allow the inclusion of grape names on labels above vin de pays level, authorise the use of oak chips and allow artificial reduction of alcohol in wine.

Oak chips have already been in use for some years in vin de pays but not at higher quality levels.

Christian Paly, president of the national AOC confederation the CNAOC, welcomed the idea of oak chips ‘for all except the AOC wines who want to do without them’.

Bernard Pomel, the author of the French government report, told Le Figaro newspaper, ‘We must make wine for consumers and not wines which producers dream about.’ Pomel submitted his report to the Ministry of Agriculture on March 24.

In it he calls for a ‘viticultural revolution’ for France, outlining steps to be taken in the near future, such as clarifying the way appellation of origin wines are named, reducing the number of wine categories to AOC, vins des pays and vins de table, including names of grapes on wine labels, lowering alcohol levels in wine artificially and using oak chips to flavor wine – already authorised by the European Union but anathema to most French wine makers.

Allowing oak chips, which can impart oak flavours to wine without using expensive barrels, will lead to uproar, according to the French TV station LCI. They are more common in the New World, including Australia, which has recently dethroned France as the number one exporter of wine to the UK.

‘The use of oak shavings is already authorised by the European Community and will soon be entered into national regulation,’ the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement.

A wine bar owner interviewed by the Associated Press said the use of oak shavings to make wines means ‘we are going to make wines like we make food at McDonald’s.’

French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau announced the adoption of Pomel’s plan Wednesday, according to LCI. He also announced a €90m government aid plan which will include €12m to boost exports, to pay for studies and panels as well as a new logo to promote French wines.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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