France revamps wine labels to rival New World

In a move that has delighted some, and enraged others, the French government will allow wineries to use the designation “Vignobles de France” to denote wine that can originate from anywhere in the country, that can contain/ be blended with any grape. A couple of the reasons for this change are the decline in wine drinking in France, from 26½ gallons per person in 1970 to now only 14½ gallons per year, and the increased competition from around the world.

This is a timely move, considering America is on target to supercede France as the world’s largest wine consumer by 2010.

Supporters say the move will make French wine easier to understand, help winemakers adapt their products to different consumer tastes, and win back customers in countries where French wines have lost out to competition.

Wine producers in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France, which produces Vins de Pays d’Oc, are furious. After a series of crises in their region, they have adapted their products for exports markets including developing “vins de cepage,” or wine that is labeled according to the grape.

The Languedoc region is now the largest exporter of French wine, ahead of the more prestigious Bordeaux region, and is the fourth world exporter of vins de cepage after Australia, Chile and the United States.

“The ‘vignobles de France’ will have the consequence of destroying the quality revolution that has taken place over 20 years in our region,” said Jacques Gravegeal, the president of the Union of Producers of Vin de pays d’Oc.

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