Sunday, 15 August 2010

AOC nonsense

The subject of AOC, wine and the Languedoc would make anyone with hair want to tear it out. I came across a particularly poignant example on a French caviste’s web site. I won’t name the site (any French one has the same issues) other than to say it fronts premises not far from Montpellier and is strong on Languedoc specimens. The ‘catalogue’ has over a score of regions listed in France and beyond. Drilling down on the Languedoc section (Roussillon has its own entry) came up with the following: -


CORBIERES
COTEAUX DU LANGUEDOC
COTEAUX DU LANGUEDOC MONTPEYROUX
COTEAUX DU LANGUEDOC PIC ST LOUP
COTEAUX DU LANGUEDOC ST GEORGES D'ORQUES
COTEAUX DU LANGUEDOC TERRASSES DU LARZAC
FAUGERES
MINERVOIS
SAINT CHINIAN
MUSCAT de ST JEAN de MINERVOIS
VDP des COTES de THONGUE
MOUT de RAISIN
VDP d'OC
VDP de L'HERAULT
VDP de la VALLEE du PARADIS
VDP des COTEAUX DU SALAGOU
VDP des MONTS DE LA GRAGE
VDP du MONT BAUDILE
VDP DU VAL DE CESSE
VIN de TABLE DU LANGUEDOC


I changed the order from alphabetical to illustrate my points - reducing confusion is impossible. The first half down to Côtes de Thongue, except Coteaux du Languedoc, at least indicate the area concerned although only locals will know St Georges d'Orques is near Montpellier and the Thongue river is to the west of Pézenas. Overlap occurs here because Monteyroux is in the Terrasses du Larzac and Georges d'Orques in Grés de Montpellier. Bad enough, but some producers in these villages opt out of the broader appellation, apparently as politics and villageism are more important than addressing consumer confusion.

That was supposed to be the easy bit to explain. Of the rest I didn’t know where the Paradis or Cesse rivers or Monts de la Grage are. Salagou and Baudile are in the Terrasses du Larzac. One famous grower in Jonquieres has wines in at least four of these categories. VDP de l’Hérault includes some of the finest wines in the region such as Grange des Peres. And so on.

My gold award goes to the wines in the Vin de Table category for presumably waving two fingers and the whole AOC/ADP/VDT system.

Arguably none of this matters for consumers who are unfamiliar with the region except that in France the merchants (and restaurants) have to use these headings and this is doing the Languedoc wine image, in France at least, no good at all.

I’m all for the idea of AOC in food products. The upbringing of a Poulet de Bresse or production of Roquefort has been honed over centuries and needs little if any fine tuning. I have some favourite Roquefort producers, but couldn’t name a single poultry farm so the AOC label coveys a great deal about the bird and justification for the price. Languedoc wine is at the other extreme and is simply changing far too fast for the AOC/VDP/VDT framework to be applied in the current form.

My vote for a way forward would be for labelling standards and diverting effort away from AOC bureaucracy to further tackling fraud and ensuring the label tells the truth.

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