Certifying Wines in the AOC (Appellation Contrôlée) System after the 2008 Reforms,
(talk given by Yves Chevalier, INAO for Bordeaux Sud-Ouest, for DUAD, January 2013)
- 17C & 18C, the notion of a cru was at the origins of the appellation system - the notoriety of certain wines
- 19C, growth of frauds and falsifications, development of wine commerce, and crises of vineyard diseases, which led to wine shortages (and therefore imitation wines)
- 20C, protection of wines and of specific terroirs was put in place through the AOC system and the INAO began to control this through a tasting system to determine typicity. A certificat d'agrément was first introduced in 1974 for winemakers (not negociants at first). Courtiers had to ensure winemakers had their certificate before selling the wines.
- 21C, Reform of the agrément on July 1 2008. This ended the certificate of agrément system (and allowed free circulation of wines). Instead the onus switched to be more like taxes system so onus on everyone (negociants also) to be up to date, with system of regular random controls and checks
AOC Obligations Today
In order to produce and sell an AOC wine:
-The wine producer must respect the geographic limit of communes, plots (parcelles) and vinification (cahier de charges)
- The producer must respect the conditions of AOC production from the vines to the commercial process, as set down in the cahier de charges.
- The operator (producer) must make himself known to his ODG (organisme de gestion and controle), formerly the local wine syndicat) - ie there must be an ODG governing the wine. In rare cases winemakers want to set up their own ODG (such as Chateau du Puy)
- the operator has to be audited by the INAO or by a local OC (organisation de certification/controle) to ensure they are working within the requirements.
- operator must submit a declaration every time the wine is sold in vrac or bottle (to the OC), so they are then able to carry out a product control.
The Control System
- Primarily it is auto-control (as with taxes)
- Internal controls by the ODG
- External controls (OI/OC) with possibility of sanctions from warnings to fines to withdrawing the product for sale. If ask for a rechecking after establishing the norms, you have to pay the associated costs.
The OI/OC is independent and impartial, chosen by the ODG and audited by the INAO (until 2008 the INAO basically did everything)
Now the INAO has the role of imposing sanctions, and inspecting the other parts of the process.
The cahier de charges (winemaking charter) defines the rules of production (name and description of the wine, geographic delimitation, production/vinification methods, methods of control including a tasting control, labelling rules)
All of this has to be validated by the INAO (who are effectively controlling the control), who will define how the tasting control will be carried out, and how many vats/barrels etc will be checked, and essentially guarantee the process and the resulting wine.
- Declaration of transaction and sale of wine in vrac or bottle
- Spot checks (contrôle par sondage) along the bottling line or in vats for vrac wine.
- frequency of controls is set by the inspection plan but at least once a year per AOC and colour of wine per operator (so for negociants at least once for all their different wine styles), and 100% of vrac going to export.
- Analytic control (prior to 2008 sometimes found local controls by local oenolgues weren't tough enough, left eg too much SO2 libre)
- At least five tasted chosen by OI from a prepared list from the ODG for each AOC (previously three tasters, and more black and white. Now there is more leeway, tasters have the ability to allow the wine to be Vins de France if it fails its AOC test, plus winemakers have the ability to appeal). The ODg creates a list of tasters, and the Oi will contact them and pay them.
- The tasters are trained by the ODG to the specificities of each AOC, and are evaluated by the OI. So are trained in the product itself.
- Samples are made anonymous by the OI (tasters know vintage, AOC and what stage the wine is at)
- The tasting itself (room etc) is under the responsibility of the OI
The Treatment of the Results by the OI
- The judgement of the tasters works by a simple majority.
- non-conformity must be decided by the specific terms of refusal set out in the approved list by the INAO
- the OI decides the severity of the problem, according to the intensity of the faults found, and transmits the results to the producer (if tasting TCA, can ask for a second bottle, if still TCA can signal it to the winemaker in case it's an issue with the entire batch).
- The producer is able to appeal
- If the problem is confirmed (or if there is no appeal) it passes to the INAO for sanctions.
- The INAO decides sanctions according to severity of the fault
- INAO informs the operator (producer)
- The producer has 15 days to reply
- INAO then deals with follow-up
The reform of the AOC system happened all over France in 2008. This is the detail of what it meant in AOC Bordeaux/Bordeaux Superieur (the text has been written by the Syndicate itself.)
A year of implementing the AOC Reform at the Syndicate of AOC Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur
With the introduction of the AOC reforms from July 1, 2008, a new era begins for all the appellations, institutions and actors of the wine industry.
The new reforms are based upon three main points :
The wine syndicates will become Organisme de Défense et de Gestion (in charge of protecting and growing their regions).
The ‘cahiers des charges’ (governing rules) will replace the current decrees and which fix the rules of production, vinification and bottling of each AOC after validation by INAO.
The ‘organisme d’Inspection’ (inspection group) that is independent of the ODGs and will ensure that all the rules of production are adhered to. This will be ensured through a system of inspections defined with the ODG and validated by INAO.
Details of the roll-out of this plan in AOC Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur, the largest wine syndicate in France.
After two years of intense preparation, marked by a great deal of work and a number of propositions by a group appointed to oversee the process, and after numerous meetings with winemakers acorss the region, the pricincapl points of the reform are now being put into practise.
8 February 2008 : General assembly voted for the modificaiton of the statutes governing AOC Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superier, to be replace with an OGM. This mean :
Integrating a negociant body into the heard of the General Assembly and the Administration Borad.
The Creation of a section specific for Crémant de Bordeaux,
Defining the new missions of the ODG.
29 May 2008 : INAO valiated the dossier and the governing rules of AOC Bordeaux (red, white, rose and clairet). This ended severals years of difficult discussions over viticulture and vinification rules.
3 June 2008 : General Assembly validated the new governing rules, with precise directives on production, vinification and bottling.
1 July 2008 : The producers of Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur called to fill in their obligatory ‘Déclaration d’Identification’ of adherence to the new rules.
The producer commits to repspecting the new rules and regulations of the appellations, and to allow the inspections and the finance the new system of controls.
On 31 August 2008, over 5,500 producers agreed to this, and asked for the new Identifications (given by INAO) for the AOCs Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur and Crémant de Bordeaux.
July 2008 : Quali-Bordeaux, the independent body created in June 2007 and validated by INAO on 30 June 2008, began its first controls on the wine that was currently in cellars and ready to be put onto the open market by producers and negociants.
July 2008 : the syndicate of Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur assembled the technical service that will be in charge internal controls on the production and inspections.
November 2008 : After the harvest, producers will fill out a ‘Demande de Revendication’ that will replace the current request for AOC-agreement, from the relevant ODG.
The wine syndicate of AOC Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur was instrumental in the roll-out of AOC reforms, and ensuring its smooth implementation to the agreed timescales.
In conclution, the reforms will ensure:
A closer working relationship with negociants.
The end of technical stumblings blocks over plantation density
Quality checks of the wine at the point of sale.