Will France reintroduce previously banned grape varieties?

Wednesday March 06 2019 by Vitisphere

 “Using modern winemaking techniques, these disease-resistant grape varieties produce distinctive wines showing typicity and unique character. They are also interesting in blends”, said Christian Vigne, chairman of the PGI Cevennes producers’ organisation. “Using modern winemaking techniques, these disease-resistant grape varieties produce distinctive wines showing typicity and unique character. They are also interesting in blends”, said Christian Vigne, chairman of the PGI Cevennes producers’ organisation.

Six grape varieties were banned in France in 1934: Clinton, Noah, Isabelle, Othello, Herbemont and Jacquez. It was believed that they were “almost” permanently banned but that was before the European Commission suggested they be re-introduced as part of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

In France, the proposal was received by industry representatives with a measure of indifference until the topic appeared in a letter dated 19 February sent to the Minister of Agriculture by the Gard PGI wine federation. In the letter, the federation clearly came down in favour of their reintroduction. “New generations of winegrowers, who are open-minded about differing tastes, ecology and the demands of society, show a keen interest in these heirloom, disease-resistant grape varieties”, explained the federation.

The Gard department is ready to go, but what about national and European representative bodies? “These are not very high quality grape varieties. It is difficult to think of them other than as high-volume varietals”, said Thomas Montagne, chairman of the independent winegrowers’ federation and CEVI. Bernard Farges, chairman of EFOW, said that the European organisation of AOC wine producers had not taken a stance in the issue. “We are surprised to see them return but there is no standoff because each appellation can decide whether or not to include them in its specifications”. Thierry Coste, chairman of the COPA/COGECA wine committee in Brussels, reported a common position on the matter, adding that that he did not “feel any great hostility”.

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