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Published:  23 July, 2008

Two key reforms to the AOC system - on agrment procedures and conditions of production - were announced by Ren Renou, president of the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) in London recently. A decree of 7 December 2001, which has already passed into law, aims to harmonise agrment procedures (by which AOC status is conferred on a wine) throughout France. The decree is designed to make the procedures not only more rigorous but also more transparent, helping to eliminate wines that have not been vinified according to the regulations, and to create traceability back to the barrel. A second decree, which the INAO submitted to the French Minister of Agriculture in February, was described as the cornerstone' of the reforms. Once the decree passes into law, specific vineyard plots will be subject to inspection by the INAO before and after harvest, thereby improving control of quality and yield at grass roots level. Renou said that the two new decrees are intended to improve enforcement of the existing system, rather than to change its fundamental principles. He admitted that the French wine industry had been resting on its laurels, but said it now recognised that in order to make AOC wines more competitive, controls had to be rigorously and transparently enforced so that they once again guaranteed both origin and quality.