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Burgundian strategies

Published:  23 July, 2008

Reflecting the UK's status as the largest export market for Burgundy, and the only major one where all the key sales statistics were up after the 2004-2005 campaign, the BIVB fielded many of its highest ranking officials for its well attended annual trade tasting in London on 12 January. BIVB president Michel Baldassini, vice-president Bernard Hervet, and president of the communications commission Jean-Michel Aubinel told Harpers of the progress being made with the rewriting of the appellation regulations (to be completed by the end of this year) and the new generic marketing campaign launched last November.

Addressing the long-standing criticism of the agrment system (by which wines are awarded the AOC), Aubinel admitted that this had been trop laxiste, and insisted that it would be significantly tightened up. Although producers would continue to serve on the tasting committees, these would be

strengthened by the addition of neutral' members from education and the trade. In a major expansion of the scope of the agrment process, this will include the inspection of vines and winemaking equipment and facilities, as well as the wines themselves. Moreover, instead of checking a single sample for any number of lots a few months after the harvest, the authorities will take a sample from each lot and test them shortly before bottling. The new procedure is being trialled from the 2005 vintage in Puligny-Montrachet and two other AOCs in the Cte d'Or, and Vir-Cless in the Sane & Loire. The downstream' quality controls on bottled wines already on the market will continue to increase, but will be scaled back as the emphasis shifts upstream' and more problems are prevented sooner.

Aubinel and Baldassini said one of the most difficult issues still to be resolved was what to do with wine which, while not faulty, was not good or not typical enough to merit AOC status. Appearing to rule out declassification', they supported the controversial proposal made by INAO president Ren Renou that some appellations be promoted to AOC d'Excllence, with stricter standards, while others remained AOC. They were emphatic that Burgundy should not become a zone mixte, with the categories of vin de pays and vin de table as safety nets, but considered this a possibility in the Beaujolais. They were equally insistent that regional wines should continue to have the option of varietal labelling, particularly when the EU's 85%

rule on varieties will not be implemented in the region (though that on vintages will be). In an attempt to demystify' Burgundy for consumers, the new advertising campaign concentrates on varieties, highlighting the region as the home of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

While Hervet agreed that improving quality, partly by strengthening the BIVB's technical services, was an essential prerequisite, he stressed that more sophisticated marketing was also vital. To Aubinel's proposal that Burgundy needed an equivalent of Bordeaux's Vinexpo, a major event that might still grow out of Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne (20-25 March 2006), Hervet added his own vision of a palace of wine', where its culture, history and relationship with the arts and sciences would be celebrated and explored.