Outrageous, stupid. Oh those bureaucrats.
But let's talk about the French. We can be thankful that the French don't interfere on that level. But man, they sure are not perfect.
France's system is the big daddy of legislating what is allowed to be planted where.
They also have perfected the wine tasting committee to ensure wines that are qualified get the dignified appellation label to put on their bottle. Trouble is? They are constantly screwing up the notion of what is qualified.
Quite a few natural winemakers have been refused appellation because of grapes like menu pineau (hello the Loire's Thierry Puzelat) that are no longer allowed where they used to be, or for color and flavors that aren't cookie cutter. This has resulted in en masse defection from the AOC and the proliferation of the Vin de France, where there is more freedom but illegal to put the place--one of the most important pieces of information--on a label.
Some appellations are more lenient than others, such as the Jura and Alsace. But Burgundy and the Rhone? Hmm.
Just take the other week, two wonderful winemakers--who I drink as often as I can but who must remain nameless-- had problems. One is in the Rhône. He presented his gorgeous wine from a fancy northern AOC. His is one of the very few in the 'hood who don't bomb the wines with liquid tannins, new oak (on top of it all), velcorin, yeasts, etc. Alive, delicious. And? It was rejected two times.
Because of its color.
The wine was a comely, translucent ruby, instead of thick, viscous, cabernet-like ook. When he submitted the wine a second time, he just swapped his more expensive wine for his his basic Côte du Rhône of a more powerful vintage. The result? Parfait! And here you are with your nice label.
In Burgundy there was a similar situation from a winemaker who makes acclaimed wines. The Hautes Côtes de Nuits in question was rejected for perceived oxidation.
I tasted the wine in NYC a few weeks back and I can tell you, the wine was as solid and as free of oxidation as all of the previous sampled vintages.
These are not isolated incidents. This is not part of the mythology. These are all common. Not to be Trump about it, but it's true. I promise you this.
In the Burgundy case, the winemaker made it through the appeal process. Nevertheless, the winemaker is weighing the Vin de France options. The domaine is well known enough that the vigneron's name will sell the wine no matter what appellation.
But wouldn't it be a terrible loss if they lost these and other important winemakers? I mean isn't there something wrong with a system that encourages their Loire sauvignon blanc produces to taste more like New Zealand instead of the Loire?
Just think of it. What if you associated all of the Vin de France with natural and organic and the appellation wines with manipulated and market-driven? Is that really where the government wants to go?
So what is inevitable? Rebellion and change.
The rules about what a wine should taste like and look like need to be reconfigured for wine and place to be relevant. There needs to be a place for authentic organic viticulture and minimal winemaking.
If some guidelines are necessary, keep them for unruly, screaming flaws. For example, VA to the point of true vinegar and serious heat damage. Add to that wines that are terribly over-oaked. over-sulfured and wines that are simply not drinkable.
In addition, education is needed. Wines made without sulfur should be judged by those who know how to taste those wines and have the vocabulary to discuss them. Coming soon will be a Parisian tasting of wines that had been refused appellation. What you will find should you attend? A collection of stunning wines, unfairly dismissed. That I promise you.
Of course one of the first responsibilities of a wine is too be delicious. But taste is so subjective. And narrowing down how a certain grape and place should taste is assigning a mathematical formula to the unquantifiable. Yet there is an essential need for judges who truly know how to taste and not only look for what is typical. As evidenced by these two recent cases, I can surmise that many who sample the wine for the panels are not qualified to drink, let alone pass judgment on wine quality.
If the French wine governance doesn't fix what is rapidly becoming a wreck, they're heralded system will tumble. And they don't want that. Do they?
Am I being too much of a dreamer?