Burgundy is staring at an existential crisis. French authorities are meeting to discuss a plan to dramatically redefine what is Burgundy. If enacted, the new map would add Beaujolais to the appellation as well eliminate 64 communes, including Chablis. Needless to say, everyone is not happy!
Bruno Verret, President of the Syndicat des Bourgognes wine union, released a statement condemning the plan. He wrote that producers harbored “very major concerns and exasperation”.
At the center of the fray is a report issued by the Institut National de l’origine et de la Qualité (INAO), the governing body for agricultural designations in France.
The report calls for the map of Burgundy to be redrawn based on “soil and climate characteristics”. The new cartography excludes numerous communes around Dijon including the entirety of Burgundy standard bearer Chablis.
Every major trade organization—and this is French wine so there are lots—in Burgundy has condemned the planned reclassification.
“It is difficult to understand how we can propose to exclude from Burgundy producers who have been there for centuries,” said Thiébault Huber, President of the Confederation of Appellations and Winemakers of Burgundy in a statement..
Adding insult to injury, the new map calls upstart Beaujolais to be granted usage of the name Burgundy. 43 communes within this area would be allowed to label their bottles as ‘Burgundy’ or ‘Burgundy-Gamay’.
The Association of Burgundy Producers in Beaujolais pushed for this move. In a statement, they argued, “The winegrowers in Beaujolais produce both Beaujolais, Crémant de Bourgogne and Burgundy wines, it is a reality of production that must be recognized” while noting that the group “is not opposed to proudly claiming our Beaujolaise identity”.
While not as livid as their response to the Chablis snub, the traditional Burgundy producers were not enthralled with this plan either.
Of course, their discontent is not new. In fact, the INAO tried to redraw the map in 2014 also, but protests and legal filings blocked that effort. Even that was nothing new, there have been contested gray areas in the Burgundy classifications since the inception of the AOC system before World War II.
The INAO will meet to finalize the plan on Thursday (2.06). They will be greeted by angry producers who are planning a meeting cum protest of their own outside the INAO’s conclave.