Today marks the 31st anniversary of the most important day in California wine history. Many regard the 1976 Judgment of Paris as the ‘tasting that changed the world.’ This was certainly true for the Napa Valley wineries that took home top honors, beating wines that were supposedly unbeatable.
Recently, there has been a great deal of attention on winery marketing campaigns that engage their customers. Fantesca Winery unveiled their Wine Corkies and Twisted Oak is allowing their fans to Write this #%&! Both wineries are encouraging participation in the winemaking process and are taking strides to break through the winery-consumer barrier.
In response to increased competition from the New World and declining domestic consumption, France is changing its wine labeling rules. France will now allow blends of different Vins de Pays to be labeled, Vignobles de France.
While California’s wine consumption is on the rise, the opposite seems to be happening in France. According to a recently released study per capita wine consumption in France continues to fall. Between 2001 and 2005, the average French citizen drank 11% less wine.
I know that I have been a little tough on French wine lately, but there are things I admire about their industry. Despite all of its bureaucratic inefficiencies and generally anti-competitive behavior, the AOC still has merit. I certainly do not think that everything they are doing is bad; far from it. Of course the AOC could be improved, but California could definitely learn from France’s regulation of their best Appellations.
A few days ago, I wrote about, French Terroir vs. California Innovation: You Decide. After reviewing that post, I’d like to examine the French AOC system in a little more depth. While most of Europe and even some New World countries have modeled their wine governance systems on the AOC, it is fair to ask whether these laws actually help consumers, or if they merely give mediocre producers a safer framework to market their wines.
There is a great deal of controversy over the validity of the French concept of terroir in California. For those of you who don’t know, terroir is the physical, chemical, and social factors that affect a piece of land and the wine that it produces.