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Alsace: Great Wines, Backward Thinking

I had to read this news headline twice just to make sure I wasn't dreaming: "Alsace wins right to drop grape names." Say what?

While it seems like a majority of French winegrowers have been arguing for some time now that being able to put the varietal name on their bottles will help French wines compete in the global marketplace, apparently the growers of Alsace (which is the only place in France where this practice has been legal for some time) have been lobbying for the exact opposite!

Just when you thought we were turning a corner in the revision of those ridiculous appellation rules, something like this happens.

As best I can understand it, somehow many of these growers, including Marcel Deiss, whose wine I have reviewed here on Vinography, feel like somehow the use of the varietal name instead of the vineyard name cheapens the wine, or at least doesn't get it the same street cred as its Bordeaux brethren.

I'm hard pressed to figure this out, but thankfully this seems to be a ruling on what vintners may do voluntarily, rather than being a new regulation for the appellation. Either way though, I'm still scratching my head.

Read the full press release here.

Comments (7)

Jack wrote:
06.06.05 at 10:36 PM

But they still have to bottle their wines in tall green bottles. Just imagine if their wines could be in a Chardonnay type bottle instead?! Oh those French, their priorities are always anti-marketing, anti-sales.
-- Jack, the Alsatian Wine Lover

Ryan Scott wrote:
06.07.05 at 1:12 AM

A lot of them would at least like the option of making it so confusing to Americans that we just buy something from Germany instead. At least German wine labels actually give a lot of information including the grapes used. One good thing about Alsace is that chaptalization is outlawed there, surprising considering the types of grapes they grow.

Terry Hughes wrote:
06.07.05 at 3:42 AM

It is indeed a foolish step. Fortunately for the lovers of Alsatian wines, we already know the lay of the land somewhat and have our favorite producers and varieties. The problem is for the newcomer to the world of wine, who may just say, "Enough" and go to less daunting or confusing sections of the wine shop.

I hate to generalize, because I know plenty of sharp, forward-thinking French people, but their wine industry does seem to be too inward-looking and not sufficiently consumer-oriented.

Lenn wrote:
06.07.05 at 8:51 AM

Backward thinking is right.

It is voluntary though...and I read somewhere that Trimach thinks it's craziness to drop varietal names.

char wrote:
06.07.05 at 7:33 PM

Who cares what they call the wine, as long as they keep making the wonderful wines they make. Most people don't know or appreciate wines from this region, I like to think of them as my little secret. I will continue to buy them and enjoy them at great prices, no matter what is on the label.

Eric LECOURS wrote:
06.09.05 at 9:29 AM

After reading the various comments on this issue I believe most are missing the point. Dropping the requirement of the varietal name on the label is a loosening of French rules and regulations, not a tightening of them. Now in Alsace they have the option of putting the variety on the label rather than that being a requirement, just as some of California's most reputable wines: Opus One, Phelp's Insignia or Dominus wine have that option. These producers have decided that "Place" is more important than any particular variety in their wines. The loosening of the AC rules in Alsace gives producers more of the flexibility that New World producers have enjoyed in marketing their wines.

Terry Hughes wrote:
06.09.05 at 5:59 PM

But this flexibility--it's a good thing??

After all, for every Opus One, there are several crummy wines that hide behind vague nomenclature or fraudulent brand names, often incorporating the word "Napa" somehow, despite the grapes' provenance in the Central Valley or somewhere.

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