Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Two cheers for the revolution

So, European winemakers have now - since August 1st - been freed to print on their labels the names of the grape varieties from which their wines are produced. My first curmudgeonly reaction to this particular bit of Euro wine reform was to greet it with a yawn.

Let's be clear. All that's happening is a long-overdue tidying-up of an untidy mess. Prior to the new rules, producers in some regions happily declared their varieties with impunity (think of all that Sauvignon Blanc de Bordeaux) while their neighbours down the road were banned from doing so. Worse still, winemakers who steadfastly supported the law in Europe, hypocritically ignored it completely when they came to sell their wine in countries where European laws did not apply. So American wine drinkers were offered Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Merlot, but their UK counterparts were not.

The one valuable aspect of this part of the reform is that it serves as a reminder to producers that their customers are people with whom it is sometimes worth communicating. No one is forcing anyone to change a single label. All that is happening is that a winemaker is now free to help a wine buyer make a more informed choice.

Which, now I come to think of it, is worth rather more than a yawn. Actually a small glass of Champagne (with a small label reference to the fact that it's a Blanc de Noirs, Pinot Noir perhaps), might be more appropriate.

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