Just bought vineyards in France ? Just a minute…. PART 1

You just realized the dream of every wine lover: you bought your own estate in Bordeaux, in Bourgogne or in Cognac.

You will make the type of wine you like, with your brand new personal labels, advertisement etc. As soon as your product is good, you will sell it like a piece of cake.

No, that would be way too simple: Depending on the area your vineyards are located in, you will have to deal with a tangle of European, National French, and local regulations.

It is apparently a bit complicated, but you will soon figure out that it can be quite simple as soon as you do things in the right order: you just need to ask the right questions at the right moment (and preferably to the right persons)!

Who is in charge?

A large number of stakeholders must be taken into account if you want to understand all the regulatory constraints related to the operation of a vineyard:

Wine syndicates, Interprofessions (CIVB, BNIC, CIVC), National Institute of Appellations of Origin, Fraud administration, European commission etc.

The paradoxical drawback of this administrative burden is that it can sometimes be very complicated to find the answers needed to develop or sell its wine… This is all the more problematic than the differences between regulations can be huge.

Sometimes differences can be explained or at least justify when it comes down to different things such as Bordeaux and Cognac for instance as these two products are simply different (Wine/Spirit) and rely on different regulation: Although it may vary slightly , the minimum alcohol content of a red wine of Bordeaux is 10 ° and its maximum level is usually 14-15 °. The Cognac must have a minimum alcohol content of 40°. Below this threshold, the product will be a “wine spirit”. Nothing wrong with that.

But even within the Bordeaux Appellations, you will have to respect different local regulations, for alcohol limits, yields thresholds, and even labelling:

Thus, if you produce a Medoc wine or a Saint-émilion, you can put “Grand Vin de Bordeaux” (“Great Wine from Bordeaux”) on your labels. But if you produce a “simple” Bordeaux wine, you can’t!

According to the question you have to ask (labeling , exportation , winemaking… ) various administrations or unions may have answers. You just need to know who to contact precisely. However, it happens sometimes that same question brings different answers. Good luck with that, especially if you are in a rush. It can take weeks or month to get the appropriate solution. Basically, wine syndicates  are in charge to promote its appellation, to ensure the missions delegated by the state and to defend AOC against any kind of fraud. It is also supposed to make available to its members a wide range of advice and services in all areas related to the operation of life: brand protection, wine rules, oenology, viticulture, training … Above the wine syndicates, you will find “Interprofessions”. They are private institution, funded by the professionals, traders and winegrowers, equally represented.

Their status mentioned the same tasks: to promote and protect the Appellations.
Above the Interprofession, you will find the INAO. The “Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité”. It is a French public administrative institution under the Ministry of Agriculture. To sum up, the INAO is here to protect the French AOC worldwide.

If you add in the mix the EU Commission (above the INAO) and the Fraud control administration, you can understand how disturbing this overlap of expertise can be for a rookie in the business.

Jean-Baptiste THIAL de BORDENAVE, Head of LexWine (@LEXWINE_IP)

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