Wine Talk

Snooth User: Charles Emilio

France could scrap the Appelation system in favour of the generic "Vins de France" brand.

Posted by Charles Emilio, Jul 5, 2010.

What's your opinion on the following piece?


France's appellation system may soon be homogenised into globally recognised brands, according to a French wine official.


Reply by Charles Emilio, Jul 5, 2010.

I'll try again....


France's appellation system may soon be homogenised into globally recognised brands, according to a French wine official.

Reply by Charles Emilio, Jul 5, 2010.

and once more I'll try again...edit button where are you?.........................................


France's appellation system may soon be homogenised into globally recognised brands, according to a French wine official.

Reply by Charles Emilio, Jul 5, 2010.

I give up.

here's the link

Reply by GregT, Jul 5, 2010.

Hey Charles  - welcome to the no edit website!!

Anyhow, I think it's a great idea.  It's exactly what I was suggesting to some of the producers last week.  There are too many appellations that don't merit consideration, and there is too much regulation regarding the "origin" of the wine rather than the juice in the bottle.  It's simply BS to imagine that every wine somehow expresses the "terroir" of the vineyard, no matter how pedestrian. 

Reply by penguinoid, Jul 6, 2010.

I think it's worth noting that it's an optional thing for wine producers:

"Anivin cannot force growers to switch allegiances from their traditional appellations. Control of the appellation system still rests with INAO, whose authority outranks Anivin."


Of course not all wines will reflect the vineyard's terroir. Terroir seems to be a very fragile thing in wine, it is easily obliterated. And not every wine maker is looking to produce a terroir-focussed wines, there is certainly a large market for varietally-correct, fruit-forward, easy drinking wines -- and there's nothing wrong with these necessarily, either.

Personally I think the generic 'Vins de France' brand is a good thing. Any producers who want their wines to be 'like Coca-Cola' (as Anivin de France put it) will label their wines as 'Vins de France', thus making them easier to avoid ;-)

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jul 7, 2010.

I'll play the devil's advocate here.


While there are far too many appelations in France - 50 departmental vins de pays - I mean really?

Yet many regions do have something unique and interesting to say, and if it's not terroir it may be the region's typical blend of grapes, which I don't need to see written out on the front label, particualry if that blend may change from year to year.

This is not necessarily about terroir, and that's a favorite red herring by folks on both sides of that arguement. It's about being able to distinguish between wine regions.

Along those lines perhaps we should replace the Northern counties of California with the generic Northern California - most of the appelations of our most famous regions are essentially meaningless when it comes to terroir. Sonoma coast anyone?

And how would we be able to put together meaningful tasting when all the info we can get regarding appelations is that the wines are from France?


Reply by thurson, Jul 7, 2010.

East Bay wine. It's got a nice ring to it.

Reply by GregT, Jul 8, 2010.

Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes du Blaye, Côtes du Bourg, are a few of those starting with "B" and they're all in Bordeaux.  The average American has zero idea where those are.  Is there a reason they aren't simply known as "Bordeaux"? 

In fact, informally they are.  So why use the "official" name instead of just Bordeaux?  And why not list the variety on the labels?  And how many people can distinguish one from the other in a blind tasting? It doesn't mean the wines are good or bad. 

And CA will have exactly the same problem if they keep on developing new "appellations" or whatever they want to call them.  Fact is, most people don't give a rat's ass.  The winemaker and his fifty friends care about each individual vineyard or plot.  And maybe a few people who haunt internet boards and perhaps I'm one of them.  But the thousands or millions of potential customers have zero interest, any more than they have an interest in knowing where the steel that went into their car came from.  So for pure business reasons, the French should simplify, rather than complicate, their labeling.  I'm convinced that's one reason that German wines, delicious as they are, don't sell better.  They really do give one a lot of information. And at the end of the day, nobody cares.  Just call it riesling, dry, slightly sweet, and really sweet.  That's all that's necessary.  Small print on the back of the label regarding the source, the vineyard, etc., can satisfy the geeks.  Ditto France.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 8, 2010.

How about we do away with all the appellations and call it "wine/red" and "wine/white" and put it in identical bottles with black and white labels?  No country, no varietal, nothing. Maybe the Snooth 5 glass system to rate them on shelf talkers, nothing else.

The whole argument is funny, because one side thinks that aoc/doc/ava is too general, and so it conveys no information about the wine inside, and another says there are too many and the appellation doesn't tell you anything about the actual wine except to offer information no one can keep track of.  One says we need to focus on regional styles and not the varietals, and the other says it's the varietal. And I could write a tome about terrroir and arguments about terroir, but one man's terroir is another man's dirt/forest floor/barnyard.  I'll save that rant for another time. 

Some appellations have more specificity--and a lot of that falls into the sub-AVAs/AOCs that no one can keep track of, except the winemaker's friends.  I know that DCV is, for the most part, great for Zin, not for Pinot, and RRV is the opposite.  But within DCV, I know that Rockpile has different exposures, different soils, and the grapes that excel there depend on being in the right place.  I can taste the difference between Cemetery Vineyard and Westphall Ridge within Rockpile.  So I am one of the 50 who cares... about that AVA, sub AVA, and the actual vineyards.  I don't know as much about the Rhone (big place), CdP specifically, or individual producers or negociants.  But I can buy a bottle, compare it to a CdR or CdV, or "Central Coast" Rhone blend, and say if I like it better, and now I know a little more.  Nice to have the info there. The bottle still says "Red Wine, Product of France," if that's all I want to know.  And that--just like people who say they like "Napa Valley Cabs"--a term I personally eschew-- and will pay 10 or 30 dollars a bottle--is just fine.

Leave the AVA/DOC  systems alone. The winemakers can say whatever they want on the back label--it's insouciant, it's unfined and unfiltered, the grapes were hand picked and hand selected, it tastes like cherries, it's made of Spatburgunder/Pinot Nero/Pinot Noir--we can't even decide on a name, and we still don't know for sure what some of the grapes are.

I say ban the little pictures of castles--who can tell those apart?


Reply by John Andrews, Jul 8, 2010.

To me, this about being able to address different target markets.  I have no problem with this as long as you don't alienate one market for another.  The current AOC/AVA naming appeals to a very specific, numerically smaller and (maybe) bigger spending segment.

I see appellation names similar to a brand.  Some brands have very high value and others do not.  While I do agree that the huge number of appellations in a given area can cause a lot of confusion and diminish the value of the 'brand' I don't believe that complete reversal helps.  In fact, I believe it destroys it.

Vins de France, as pointed out in the article, is meant to attract younger buyers that may not be familiar with the appellations in France.  To me this implies that you can have both.  The current AOC designations and Vins de France can coexist with Vins de France as stepping stone into AOC French wines.  

@Foxall - "Ban the little pictures of castles" <-- HHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHA


Reply by heartsleeve, Jul 9, 2010.

I'm for more info not less.  I can always glaze over that which doesn't interest me, but I can't GUESS what they decided to leave off if we go to VIN DE PAYS.  And for those of us who know one berg from the next and are looking for something specific, it is very convenient.  In general I like Bordeaux wines, but I prefer St Emilion to the Medoc.  Having the label spell that out is essential - for me.

Reply by Degrandcru, Jul 9, 2010.

@GregT: "I'm convinced that's one reason that German wines, delicious as they are, don't sell better."

I don't think so Greg. First of all the demand for white wine isn't that big internationally and another reason is that Germany destroyed their reputation with cheap plunk in the 80's (and the cheap plunk you still only find on the export market). Reason for this was a change in the German wine law in 1971 with the intention to simplify the labeling. Germans thought that they had too many different different little areas on the labels and combined many of them. Result was that many areas that stood for great quality disappeared, meanwhile others with low quality could upgrade to an area with great reputation (with as a result was ruined quickly). Actually there is a movement in Germany to change this again. By the way, German wines sell very good in Germany and many people know exactly what they are looking for. I think Heartsleeve has a very good point there. If the bottle would state VIN DE FRANCE and the grape, it would say nothing about the quality. Nobody would know. Now most people don't know (if you are not specialized in an area). But nowaddays the people who really care do know. And for the rest nothing would improve. So why change it?
Reply by GregT, Jul 10, 2010.

Why not put the information on the BACK label so that people who care can read it?  It seems that people have no problem at all keeping track of all kinds of information - particular models of computers from different manufacturers and different components within down to the chipset on the graphics board.  So the people who care can always find out more by looking at the spec sheet or the back label. 

It's about branding and in the world today people shop by brand, they identify themselves by brand, and I'm sure that sooner or later some coffin maker is going to develop some brand awareness in the populace and we will die by brand.  People are comfortable with it and the existing systems that have evolved for historical reasons may not serve much more other than to keep entrenched interests in power.

So the reason to change it is because it's not working for many of the people who produce wine.  Bordeaux is a perfect example.  THere are some top names tha everyone in the business knows.  There are a lot of bad wines.  In between there are some pretty good wines that are simply lost in the shuffle.

Ridge vineyards is a great example of branding - their labels are distinctive, simple, and the back labels convey loads of information, some of which is not even allowed in some European regions.

" If the bottle would state VIN DE FRANCE and the grape, it would say nothing about the quality."

But it's a myth that the current appellations systems say anything at all about the quality of the wine in the bottle.  Again - look at the Medoc - was the 1855 classification based on quality?  Not at all.  But at that leveIl, there is brand awareness and people will pay for those few names.  It serves their purposes to keep the rules as they are, so the rules will not change.  The rest of the region be damned - it's a vestige of the aristocratic mentality that serves no useful purpose for most customers.

The German wine in the 1970s was perhaps similar to Tuscan wine in the 1970s - both were considered inferior and adulterated yet both have recovered nicely.  However, the Tuscans, at least in Chianti, were characteristically flexible - when the rules didn't seem to work, they simply ignored them until they were rewritten. 

Wine is a product just like any other.  It's not more special or somehow immune to the same influences that touch on everything else people buy.  If the appellation system were working as well as a few wine lovers believe, there would not be a request today from the people in the Muscadet region for the government to buy their wine for distillation into alcohol, and there would not be a movement by the EU to grub up vines, and there would not be protests in the south of France by growers who can't sell, etc. 

I never suggested that people be prohibited from providing information.  I just think that they should not be required to provide information that doesn't matter to most people while they're prohibited from providing information that may have more relevance.

Reply by heartsleeve, Jul 10, 2010.

Usually, they put what helps it sell on the front, and what's useful or informative on the back.  Just like food producers put NEW and FAT FREE on the front and the ingredients, calories, sodium etc content in small print on the back or sides.

As long as the information is SOMEWHERE on the bottle, I don't care.  I'm just categorically AGAINST dumbing down the labels to what amounts to a generic statement - unless it is a dumb mass marketed generic wine.

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