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The Government Is Always Right. Right?

File this one under protectionism, cross referenced with idiocy. I tend to give the French government and trade bodies a lot of shit because of stupid appellation rules, but today the French get a pass. Its the Spanish who need to have their heads examined after passing legislation last month stipulating that in order to put the DO (Denominación de Origen) status on their wines the bottles need to be closed with a cork. And only a cork. To put a finer point on it, if you don't have a cork in the bottle then you can't call your wine a Montsant. Even if it meets every other regulation of the appellation.

This is the second dumbest wine regulation in history (the first being the law passed by the French outlawing UFOs in their vineyards), and is tantamount to protectionism for the cork industry. Why didn't they just go ahead and say that the foil capsules all had to be made out of plastic, too? Or that the labels all needed to use sans serif fonts?

Of course, the real reason they are doing this is probably that some legislator cum wine snob has a thing for the "authenticity of corks" and believes that screwaps and other alternative closures are inferior. But if that was really the case, why is it that a prominent Portugese winery (most corks come from Portugal) has abandoned corks and gone to screwcaps?

If you're the cynical type, it's also not hard to imagine that some legislator might have been paid off by APCOR (Associação Portuguesa da Cortiça) the major cork producers consortium in Portugal.

I hope this move doesn't drive any Spanish winemakers out of business. Corks are expensive and to demand they stopper up an $8 bottle of Penedes is a little onerous, in addition to being inane.

Read the full story.

Comments (9)

Tony Quila wrote:
04.28.06 at 3:48 AM

I agreed with you until the very end. Likely all $8 bottles of Penedes have previously been sealed with cork. How is requring that they NOT change onerous? A competitive disadvantage, maybe.

Mike Hoff wrote:
04.28.06 at 10:08 AM

It's not the Spanish - it's the Catalans.

Katie wrote:
04.28.06 at 11:42 AM

It might have something to do with the fact that 23% of the world's cork forests are in Spain that account for 32% of the world's production......http://www.corkqc.com/cqfstat.htm

Alder wrote:
04.28.06 at 12:50 PM


You are correct, and I'm sure the Cataluynans (?) would be very upset to have been labelled as Spanish.

Alder wrote:
04.28.06 at 12:52 PM


You're correct, and you make a good point -- in all likelihood most of the Penedes wines are sealed with corks already.


jon o wrote:
04.30.06 at 9:51 AM

I'm not overly cynical but I'd lay any bet that someone is in bed with APCOR. As far as I can tell, that's just how government everywhere works.

keep it up,

Justine wrote:
05.01.06 at 8:52 AM

I lived in Madrid for a year and, to be honest, of all the wine I drank, I never found a bottle closed with anything but a cork (except, of course, the "bricks" of cheap table wine). I'm curious to see how many winemakers in the region were actually using synthetic corks.

Natester wrote:
05.02.06 at 3:58 PM

Katie nailed it. The corks gonna be sold one way or another. I think it might be a matter of national pride while the rest of the world moves to screw caps. Someday cork might be so scarce taht only Spain uses it. Let's be honest, this will make their wines uber cultish.

Ryan wrote:
05.03.06 at 9:25 AM

I wrote about this a couple of times now on my blog. For the most part the press is making a bigger deal out of this than it is. Yes it's a dumb law, but not as restrictive as they say it is. In fact I talked to multiple importers of Catalan wines that are still going to be importing to the states wine in plastic cork or screw caps.
As far as APCOR, I've been playing tag with them for a month trying to get them to comment on the issue for me. Even after I mentioned the story about the Douro wine producer swithcing to screw caps they are still draggin their feet. Either way you think they would like to imporve their image some and give some kinda comment.

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