‘A crime against history’: Why Burgundy winegrowers are protesting in Paris

'A crime against history': Why Burgundy winegrowers are protesting in Paris
There's trouble in the Burgundy vineyards. Photo: AFP
Plans to revise the historic Burgundy wine-growing label have been met with fury by French vineyard owners - and promises of a protest in Paris on Thursday.

The Appellation d'Origine Controle Bourgogne – which dictates which wines can label themselves Burgundy – could be set to get a lot smaller.

And this would leave many well-known wines – including Chablis – unable to label themselves as Burgundy.

READ ALSO 'Burgundy is about much more than just wine'

Being able to label a wine as a Burgundy can almost double the price of a bottle Photo: AFP

The wine industry is currently debating a proposal to remove 64 communes from the area of eastern France covered by the Burgundy label.

Among the famous names that would be lost from the official Burgundy area would be Chablis and Côte d'Or.

To add insult to injury, almost half the communes of the Beaujolais area would still be able to style themselves as Burgundy.

The Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (Inao) which considers matters of French wine labelling has been considering the proposal since 2000, but patience among winegrowers is now wearing thin and they are calling for a demonstration on Thursday at the organisation's headquarters in the Paris suburb of Montreuil.

The winegrowers say the proposals are “completely unacceptable” and a threat to the very future of the French vineyard.

“Burgundy wines are under very serious threat,” a group of 12 local MPs and senators said, urging Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume, who oversees Inao, to reject “a crime against history, geography and the economy”.

Apparently the problem stems back to 1937 when a geographic review of the Burgundy area was not completed properly, creating confusion about the rules for what was and what was not a Burgundy.

The Inao began a review in 2000 which is looking at both the natural environment such as the soil quality and type and the 'custom and practice' of wine growing in the area.

The organisation has sought to calm fears by pointing out that any proposals are in the early phase and would be followed by extensive public consultation.

“Today we're in the study phase,” says Gilles Flutet, head of Inao's Territories and Boundaries department.

Being able to label any product AOC or AOP (Appellation d'origine controle or Appellation d'origine protégée) is a mark of quality and consequently means producers can charge more.

With a famous name such as Burgundy, the label can almost double the price per bottle that producers can charge.

Burgundy lays claim to having possibly the oldest wine tradition in France, as there is evidence of pre-Roman Celtic vineyards.

There are 100 appellations in Burgundy,  divided in to Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru.

Unlike the more generally warm southern climate in Bordeaux, Burgundy experiences much more unpredictable weather with cold winters, hot summers and storms, which means that the quality of wines produced can vary widely.

The red wines of Bordeaux are typically a blend of two or more of five grapes: cabernet savignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot while a red burgundy is always a pinot noir grape.





Member comments

  1. “while a red burgundy is always a pinot noir grape.” Except when it is not, hence the debate about Beaujolais being Burgundy and Macon, which is also currently in Burgundy AOC are made from Gamay….

  2. Perhaps, like in the Camembert kerfuffle, tradition will win in the Burgundy wine kerfuffle. In the meantime, more protests!

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