Monday, September 17, 2012

A man's home is his chateau, unless the Bordelais have something to say about it.

 According to La Revue du Vin de France, the good folks in Bordeaux take a certain amount of umbrage to the use of the word ‘chateau’ on American wine labels - I’m looking at you Chateau Montelena!

In France if the wine you make is labeled Chateau du Manchot Royal, the fruit must come from land owned by said chateau and vinified at exactly the same chateau in question. In these United States no such requirement exists. I could grow my own fruit, buy fruit, contract someone else entirely to do all the work and put my name on the label.

The Federation des grands vins de Bordeaux (FGVB) believes that the consumer will be misled by the word chateau and be under the assumption that my contract bottled Chateau Joe is all estate grown and bottled - clearly, my cunning knows no end. What the FGVB aims to do is prohibit wine exported from the U.S. into the EU from having the word chateau appear on their label at all.

This slightly reminiscent of Fox News’ attempt to trademark the phrase “Fair and Balanced,” except it might be slightly sillier. If I were to poll our customers, I imagine very few would be aware of those ‘chateau’ label laws within France. A misled consumer does not strike me as a very serious problem.  

Legal labeling distinctions about age, like reserve in Italy or Spain, or location, like Port from Portugal or Champagne from... Champagne, make complete sense. There is a delineation, and theoretically, and indication of quality or typicity in a wine. Wine labeled Champagne must be produced in the ol’ methode champenoise (another issue for another time), come from Champagne, and by golly, it better taste like Champagne.

The word ‘chateau’ alone doesn’t promise any sort of typicity. The Cru rating system in Bordeaux is disparate from that of Burgundy due to the fact that the Bordelais rate based on the Chateau, not the land. This means if a Chateau is granted its status in 1855 and it has 15ha of land, it can maintain this status even if the land increases to 30ha. In Burgundy the cru is the delineated plot of land, not the house making it.

If the Bordelais are really concerned about misleading the consumer, one would think that they might consider the existing rating system that exists on Bordeaux’s left bank.   

The issue will be settled on September 25th with the Comite de gestion de l'Organisation commune des marches agricoles (OCM.) La Revue also quotes Bernard Farges, president of la Confederation nationale des AOC, who is responsible for the AOC rules in France, in saying that there is some precedence with other labeling terms. Bernard is also vice president of la Federation des grands vins de Bordeaux (FGVB.)

I wonder where his opinion will fall...

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