18th September, 2012 by Lucy Shaw
A new proposal by the European Commission will allow American wines made from bought in grapes to use the term “château” on their labels if it is given the green light.
French winemakers fear the proposal, to be addressed later this month by the EC’s Common Organisation of Agricultural Markets, would destroy the meaning of the term “château” in regards to unique wines made from a specific site.
Representatives from Bordeaux have denounced the initiative as confusing to French consumers and potentially ruinous to the tradition of château wine production.
They are to meet on Monday in an attempt to coerce the French government into vetoing the initiative.
“There is a great danger that the notion of the château will disappear in France. The consumer is going to feel lost,” Laurent Gapenne, vice-president of the CIVB, told Le Parisien.
“It is unthinkable that the European Commission, which is supposed to defend our interests, approves of this measure. In the US it’s different, they use the term château to create a brand name like Coca Cola or Nike,” Gapenne added.
Winemakers fear that if the move is successful it could spread to other countries.
The proposal however, would allow European winemakers to rely more on the American labelling system, which emphasis the grape variety rather than the specific plot where the grapes were grown.
Gapenne believes that if French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll refuses to fight the measure, wine producers could seek legal action.
The “château” label accounts for up to four fifths of sales for winemakers across France.