French wineries want the EC to safeguard their heritage

French wineries want the EC to safeguard their heritage

French wine grape growers have applauded a European Commission decision to postpone a ruling that will allow US wineries to use the label “château” or “clos” in the EU.

The postponement, announced this week, has pleased Bordeaux wine growers, who fear an influx of château-named US wines will dilute the heritage of their product. But, they have warned that the fight is not over.

“Maybe the decision will come next week, or the week after,” Bordeaux Wine Council spokesperson Marie Estève told just-drinks today (27 September). “We didn't win, we now have to wait.”

Château-named wines in France must source their grapes from the same vineyard, whereas US laws allow up to one quarter of the grapes to come from another region or country, Estève said.

“For us, it's a speciality of Bordeaux,” she said. “If every winery can have this, then it will not be a speciality of Bordeaux. If every winery in the US can be a château, then you will have lots of them and the quality won't be there.”

The European Federation of Origin Wines (EFOW) said US growers want to piggyback on French wine's prestige. “If the Americans were playing fair they would use the term “castle” and not “château,” EFOW spokesperson Daniela Ida Zandona told just-drinks. “It just shows that they want to surf on the reputation of the term.”

Estève warned that Burgundy wines are also under threat from US wines wanting to use the name “clos” on their labels. However, she said the industry is putting up a collective front.

“Every wine maker in France is on the same page,” she said.

Calls to US wine associations were not immediately answered.

On 28 November, the EC is to hold a final meeting on whether the EU will abandon decades-old planting rights.