Magic of 'appellation controlee' evaporates

ANTHONY ROSE

Wine Correspondent

Do you normally look for the magic words Appellation Controlee when buying your French wine as a guide to its quality and authenticity?

If so, think again. According to the results of a blind tasting in November's Que Choisir, France's answer to Which?, a panel of experts found themselves unable to distinguish their burgundies from their California chardonnays; their clarets from their New World cabernet sauvignons.

Putting his head on the block, as it were, Michel Bettane, one of France's leading wine writers, said the fact is that today, the words Appellation d'Origine Controlee are a guide neither to the quality nor authenticity of what you will find in the bottle.

You could hear the shock- waves reverberating from Paris to Papeete.

Developed at the turn of the century as a way of protecting French producers from imitation and fraud, the Appellation Controlee system is an institution in France and widely respected beyond its shores as the European model for designating and controlling regional names. Covering vast regions such as Bordeaux as well as obscure plots of rural vineyard, the system is as sacrosanct as Notre- Dame.

But not to Que Choisir, which complained that "too many growers prefer money over authenticity, as a result of which the system no longer protects the consumer".

There is little doubt that excessive yields and the over-extension of classic vineyard districts such as Chablis and Chateauneuf du Pape have contributed to the declining quality of French AC wines.

Equally, question marks arise over the validity of appellations such as Chatillon-en-Diois or Cotes du Ventoux, which appear to owe more to vested interests and political lobbying than the inherent quality of the vineyards.

And at approval tastings for AC status, unspoken economic pressures to pass wines destined for export as Appellation Controlee can be strong.

If the system started as a way of safeguarding traditions and reputations, there is increasing concern within the industry that bending the rules has undermined the quality and image needed to make AC wines more competitive.

In an unprecedented move, the entire board of the National Institute of Appellations (INAO), the system's controlling body, came to London in February this year to see how French wines could compete with the likes of New World chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon without having to change the concept on which appellation is based, namely French wine's sense of place.

In a recent communique, Alain Berger, director of the INAO admitted that there are wines which pass the Appellation Controlee test but which do not deserve AC status. With this in mind, Mr Berger has promised to set up more tests and better scrutiny.

The industry also acknowledges that further inroads need to be made on permitted yield levels and that the number of appellations (more than 400) should be cut back if the French wine industry is to tackle the consumer- friendly wines of the New World.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
All British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game