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French is best

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AlexR

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French is best

by AlexR » Wed Jul 05, 2006 3:37 am

Or so says Eric Asimov in the NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/05/dinin ... ted=1&_r=1

Not a chauvinist by any means, our journalist.

His article is sure to raise a few hackles on the Left Coast...
On the Right Coast, where I was brung up, a fine wine was a French wine. But that was a few decades ago. It is interesting to see that this prejudice has remained to some extent.

Asimov does well to speak of the two tiers of French wine production. I would only quarrel with his description of "plain Bordeaux or Beaujolais" as "lowly appellations". Yes, there is a lot of crap out there masquerading under those famous names. *But* there are also many, many fine wines not entitled to communal appellations.

The basic flaw in the French system is the assumption that a wine entitled to an appellation d'origine contrôlée is a good wine, whereas we all know that this just ain't true. However, things *are* changing. It's just that wine growers are a conservative group in a conservative country...

Homage should be rendered to the recently deceased René Renou, head of the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine. He got the ball rolling to institute some much-needed changes in French wine law.

Best regards,
Alex R.
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Graeme Gee

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Re: French is best

by Graeme Gee » Wed Jul 05, 2006 5:04 am

Alex,
Do you know whether it is legal to sell outside the EU (or inside, come to that), a wine labelled;

Bourgogne
appelation bourgogne controlle
Pinot Noir
2003

...becuase I bought such a wine here in Sydney and wondered if the labelling / AOC laws had been relaxed for the lowlier appelations, or it was some kind of export label that wuld not be acceptable in the EU?

cheers,
Graeme
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AlexR

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Re: French is best

by AlexR » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:15 am

Graeme,

Yes, that is entirely legal.
The law depends on what appellation you're talking about.

For instance, grape varieties are a necessary part of the information in Alsace and Touraine. They are unusual, but authorized in Burgundy. However, French law is more strict than European law. If there's a grape variety indicated on the label, the wine must be made 100% from that variety...

There is a gray area in Bordeaux. You used to find "Bordeaux Sauvignon" and "Bordeaux Merlot", but it has been a while since I've seen any. I believe this is more to do with commercial failure of the varietal labelling rather than French wine law, even though I'm convinced that grape varieties on (main) Bordeaux wine labels is at best "tolerated".

The New World has a decided advantage in the simplicity of their labelling.
Compare : 2003 Rosemount Cabernet Sauvignon with 2003 Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac, grand cru classé, appellation Saint Emilion grand cru contrôlée - not forgetting, of course, that there's a world of difference between a cru classé and a grand cru classé, although the latter shares the previous appellation with hundreds of other estates that aren't classified...

French wine's complicated and not all the names trip lightly off the tongue... I think it is well worth the time and trouble to wade through that complexity, but many average consumers do not agree. Indeed, I don't speak German, and am much daunted by German wine names, so I can understand entirely.

I have faith in the French wine industry to rebound, and it will be interesting to follow progress in the coming years. Meanwhile, there can be no doubt that a shakeout is taking place.

Best regards,
Alex R.
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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Re: French is best

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:32 am

What is going on in the French wine industry has been much debated in the press/on the internet/on forums such as ours. The labelling issue is about to change if one believes what the EU is promoting...put the grape varietal(s) on the front label!!!
Wines from Spain and Portugal seem to sell well these days and in many cases no mention of the varietals on the front of the bottle? These countries are "hot" and popular, and many a good price. France has lots to work on I`d say.
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Bob Ross

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Re: French is best

by Bob Ross » Wed Jul 05, 2006 11:58 am

Matt Kramer has a neat companion piece in the NY Sun today on how horrible really are at the upper echelons of French wine:

"If you want to do the envy-inducing math, the opening offer from Chateaus Latour and Margaux to the Bordeaux wine trade last week was 350 euros ($438) a bottle. That's just what's called the first tranche, or slice, a kind of test-the-waters approach. Buyers quickly flipped these futures to yet other intermediaries for more than 400 euros ($500). Knowing this, you can be sure that the second tranche will be offered by the chateau at a higher price.

Now for the math: If a first-growth chateau sells, let's say, 15,000 cases at $500 a bottle, that's $90 million. Pas mal, as the French might say, especially considering that the cost to produce and bottle a firstgrowth red Bordeaux wine is about $10 a bottle.Who says the French don't believe in the free market?


I thought the Times article was right on the money.

Regards, Bob
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Hoke

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Re: French is best

by Hoke » Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:09 pm

Graeme Gee wrote:Alex,
Do you know whether it is legal to sell outside the EU (or inside, come to that), a wine labelled;

Bourgogne
appelation bourgogne controlle
Pinot Noir
2003

...becuase I bought such a wine here in Sydney and wondered if the labelling / AOC laws had been relaxed for the lowlier appelations, or it was some kind of export label that wuld not be acceptable in the EU?

cheers,
Graeme


Graeme: As Alex said, that's entirely legal now. A few years ago, in response to the increasing demand from (primarily) Americans wanting to see declaration of varieties on labels, the Burgundy AOC authorities and INAO instituted a change in the labeling regs, so Chardonnay and Pinot Noir could appear.

Simple, really: when it was clearly explained to the negociants that it would be easier to sell to les Americanes, who did not know the AOC regulations, and didn't understand that a red Burgundy had to be Pinot and a white had to be Chardonnay, they grudgingly pushed the changes through. Been that way for a few years now. My guess is they're shipping one "English" label version everywhere now, so that's why you're seeing it.

not forgetting, of course, that there's a world of difference between a cru classé and a grand cru classé,
Well....sometimes yes, and sometimes there's not a bit of discernible difference, Alex. :)

Wines from Spain and Portugal seem to sell well these days and in many cases no mention of the varietals on the front of the bottle? These countries are "hot" and popular, and many a good price
Totally true, Bob...but keep in mind that even with the new popularity and trendiness of Spanish and Portugese wines, it's still relative. Which means that the French, although having lost a lot of ground to other wine producing countries (especially Australia), still accounts for a massive share of sales and consumption. The Spanish and Portugese wine growth, while impressive, still accounts for a fairly small share of the sales---and "share of mouth", as they say in the biz. Not taking away anything from those wines, mind you. I too have been drinking a lot of them lately. But the numbers are still disparate. Very disparate.
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Paul Winalski

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Re: French is best

by Paul Winalski » Wed Jul 05, 2006 8:31 pm

Graeme Gee wrote:Do you know whether it is legal to sell outside the EU (or inside, come to that), a wine labelled;

Bourgogne
appelation bourgogne controlle
Pinot Noir
2003

...becuase I bought such a wine here in Sydney and wondered if the labelling / AOC laws had been relaxed for the lowlier appelations, or it was some kind of export label that wuld not be acceptable in the EU?


One sees wines labeled in this way in the USA all the time. Varietal labelig side-by-side with the AOC labeling for Bourgogne (i.e., pinot noir or chardonnay) is becoming more and more common as the producers and importers take advantage of US consumer expectations of varietal labels. Your average joe knows what chardonnay is, and after the sucess of "Sideways", knows what pinot noir is, but he doesn't know that "Bourgogne" is French for "Burgundy".

-Paul W.
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James Roscoe

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Re: French is best

by James Roscoe » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:42 pm

Quite frankly, I bought a wine like that over the weekend I bought it not because it had the varietal name (pinot noir), nor because I knew what Bourgogne meant, but because I knew the importer was reliable Alfio Marcioni) and the price was worth a flier (under $10).
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Graeme Gee

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Re: French is best

by Graeme Gee » Thu Jul 06, 2006 12:43 am

AlexR wrote:Graeme,
Yes, that is entirely legal.
The law depends on what appellation you're talking about.


Thanks - that's what I was beginning to comprehend. THere are plenty of imports here that make have the info on an importer's back label, I just didn't realise that it was legal to put it on the front label for modest appelations. Certainly makes sense when trying to compete with new world wines.
cheers,
Graeme

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