For a growing number of French wineries, these old-world laws have become too restrictive and a block to experimentation and progress. In stark contrast to the New World, where regulations aren’t as prescriptive (and this has arguably been one of their major competitive advantages in recent years), French producers aren’t able to produce and market wines more adapted to current consumer trends, if that deviates from the AOP laws. But there is flexibility outside of the AOP if you are willing to declassify.
This has seen a growing number of top quality producers releasing superior wines under the lesser ‘Vin de France’ category. Historically, this was for entry-level table wine but it allows for more flexibility and creativity, and some exciting new wines being released.
Elsewhere in Europe, it’s the lack of quality-focussed laws that are causing the tension. Wine regions that are heavily dominated by big brands and driven by volume has seen some quality wineries breaking from the region and establishing their own quality rules.
In 2013, Raventos i Blanc left Cava DO and have begun the process of creating a new, terroir driven appellation called Conca del Riu Anoia. Their decision to do this came from the desire to set a standard in high quality wine production where rules such as the use of only indigenous grapes, ecological viticulture, estate produced and estate bottled fruit and minimum ageing requirements apply which are currently not in place.
Rather than changing the AOP focus – which is protecting the origin of the wine, and being intensely accurate about terroir – flexibility could be shown in viticulture to allow for a certain level of experimentation, innovation and excellence. We know this won’t happen overnight.
I wonder whether there is a parallel future in store for the whisky regions.