Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 French Wine Law Changes

The Guild of Sommeliers has published a list of 2011 worldwide wine law changes and I have obtained their permission to reproduce it on this blog.  This post covers the French wine law changes with subsequent posts covering the remainder of Europe and the New World.  
France Wine Law System
Confusion has reigned regarding the alignment of France's traditional appellation system with the Common Market Organization reforms of the EU, but it is now clear that AOC and AOP are intended to be complementary designations.  AOP will not entirely replace AOC on labels; rather, producers have the choice of using one or the other.  Vin de Pays and IGP are likewise complementary designations.  VDQS has been eliminated, leaving three tiers of French wine appellations: AOC/AOP, Vin de Pays/IGP, and Vin de France.
"Côtes de Francs" was eliminated as a geographical designation for Bordeaux AOC/AOP.
In 2011, maximum yield requirements for nearly all village, premier cru, and grand cru appellations were raised, as were the requirements for minimum must weights.  Monopole grand crus now require manual harvesting—an amendment to AOC rules that reflects the tradition in these vineyards.
While Burgundy's greatest vineyards saw yields increase in 2011, base yields in the crus of Beaujolais decreased, from 58 hl/ha to 56 hl/ha.
Coteaux Bourguignons AOC/AOP is the new name for an old appellation, Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire.  Blended red, rosé, and white wines are authorized. 
In Pays Nantais, 3 former VDQS zones received AOC/AOP status: Gros Plant du Pays Nantais, Fiefs Vendéens, and Coteaux d'Ancenis.  In the tradition of Muscadet, Gros Plant wines may be labeled "Sur Lie".  Coteaux d'Ancenis produces red and white wines; white wines from the appellation are off-dry, varietal versions of Pinot Gris.
In Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, the "Cru Communaux" proposal raised over a decade ago has finally been adopted into AOC law.  Three crus (subzones) now exist: Clisson, Gorges, and Le Pallet.  It is expected that more will follow shortly.  These wines are aged on the lees for a longer period of time than is legally allowed for the "Sur Lie" designation, and therefore may not list that term on the label.
In Anjou, two former crus (subzones) of Savennières are now fully-fledged, separate appellations: Savennières Coulée de Serrant AOC/AOP and Savennières Roche Aux Moines AOC/AOP.  Both totally prohibit chaptalization, and each has tighter controls on yields, and higher minimum must weight and minimum potential alcohol requirements than the basic Savennières AOC/AOP.
In the Coteaux du Layon region, producers of Quarts du Chaume are legally allowed to label their wines as "grand cru" from the 2010 vintage forward.  The new AOC regulations for the appellation bar cryo-extraction and require a new minimum 85 g/l of residual sugar, up from a prior 34 g/l.  Quarts du Chaume now mandates the highest minimum residual sugar level of any non-fortified wine in France.  With the approval of the "grand cru" designation for Quarts du Chaume, producers of Chaume (a geographic designation for Coteaux du Layon) may once again label their wines "premier cru".
In addition to Mesland, Amboise, and Azay-le-Rideau, Touraine AOC/AOP has 2 new subzones, Oisly and Chenonceaux.  White wines from both subzones are produced solely from Sauvignon Blanc.  Reds from Chenonceaux are blends of Cabernet Franc, Cot, and Gamay.
South of Touraine and Anjou, the former VDQS Haut-Poitou has been elevated to AOC/AOP status.  Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the principal grapes for the region's white, red, and rosé wines.
In Central France, near St-Pourçain, Côtes d'Auvergne is now AOC/AOP.
Alsace and Lorraine:
Moselle joins Côtes de Toul as an AOC/AOP of Lorraine.  The region's principal grapes are Pinot Noir and Auxerrois.
In Alsace, Riesling now has a maximum required residual sugar level.  All varietal Riesling from Alsace AOC/AOP may contain no more than 9 g/l of residual sugar, making the wines effectively dry.  This does not apply to wines labeled "Vendanges Tardives" or "Sélection de Grains Nobles", nor does it apply to Grand Cru wines or wines labeled as a lieu-dit.  This applies from the 2008 harvest forward.
Several new geographic designations join Klevener de Heiligenstein under the Alsace AOC/AOP: Blienschwiller, Côtes de Barr, Scherwiller, Vallée Noble, Val Saint Grégoire, Wolxheim, Ottrott, Rodern, Saint-Hippolyte and Côte de Rouffach.
Southern France and the Rhône
In Provence, white wines have been added to the Les Baux de Provence AOC/AOP.
Going forward, Rasteau's VDN wines will be labeled in a manner similar to Rivesaltes.  White VDN wines are either "blanc" or "ambré", indicating either a fresher or a more oxidative, tawny style.  Red VDN wines are "grenat" or "tuilé".  Maury and Banyuls have adopted these terms as well. 
Maury AOC/AOP may now produce non-fortified, dry reds.  Maury and Baixas, which appeared as subzones for Côtes du Roussillon-Villages in early 2011 on the INAO's official site, are not listed in the appellation's most recent revision of its regulations.
Languedoc's system of Grand Crus and Grand Vins is seemingly still under discussion and revision.  As of the close of 2011, the Languedoc AOC/AOP subzones La Clape and Pic-St-Loup have not yet achieved AOC/AOP status.
In Southwest France, a number of former VDQS zones now enjoy AOC/AOP status: Estaing, Entraygues-Le Fel, Brulhois, Côtes de Millau, Coteaux du Quercy, Saint-Mont, Saint Sardos, and Tursan. 
The subzone "Bellocq" in Béarn has been eliminated.
The minimum percentage of Tannat in the Madiran encépagement has been raised to 60%.

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