Tougher stance on AOC wines

The president of France's national appellation institute has vowed to crack down on second-rate winemakers as part of a restructuring of the AOC system.

"There are too many winemakers who benefit from their appellation when they should be serving it," said Yves Bénard, president of the INAO. Bénard said the INAO's reforms will "close the door to certain wine professionals who today do not deserve to have the AOC badge on their label".

He added: "This will reinstate the AOC as a true kitemark of quality."

The restructuring will separate the ­winemaking, monitoring and approval parts of the system so there are no conflicts of interest.

Historically, syndicates in each appellation area have been responsible both for supporting the interests of their ­winemaker members and ensuring they obey appellation laws.

In July this year, the Organisme de Défense et de Gestion was set up. It will monitor winemakers' compliance with appellation laws, freeing up the local wine syndicates to focus on supporting their members.

The second stage, which should be in place by harvest 2008, will see responsibility for approving wine transferred from local syndicates to teams of independent inspectors. Inspectors will be drawn both from certification agencies for other AOCproducts, such as cheese, and private companies.

Approval for AOC status will no longer rely just on tasting, but include monitoring during harvest and vinification.

Bénard dismissed a claim by French consumer rights group Que Choisir that one third of AOC wine did not deserve its status. "That is purely a provocative statement," he said.