The SW Summary: On appellation amendments, wine labelling, Champagne’s “blissful” harvest and more

By Hanna Halmari
Appellation amendments: Gigondas to produce white wine

In Decanter Matt Walls reports on the recent changes to the appellation guidelines in Gigondas in France’s Southern Rhône. Following a unanimous vote among members of the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO) earlier in September, producers will now be able to produce white wines from the 2023 vintage under the Gigondas appellation. White Gigondas must contain a minimum 70% Clairette, with “other permitted varieties [including] Bourboulenc, Clairette Rose, Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Piquepoul and Roussanne.”

Gigondas was the first Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation to be awarded cru status in 1971, but only for red and rosé wine. This led many producers to rip out their white vineyards. Until now, the producers who kept their white vineyards have only been able to sell their wine under the generic appellation Côtes du Rhône. Read more here.

Britain’s booming wine industry

Writing for The Sunday Times Matilda Davies highlights how global warming is changing the wine map, emphasising the rise of English wines. Throughout the past decade the area covered by vineyards in the UK has expanded from 1,300 hectares in 2011 to over 4,000 hectares this year. This has largely been driven by the warming climate, which has enabled vines to flourish and produce high quality grapes. 

Simon Thorpe, Chief Executive of WineGB, the national association for British wine, notes how what was “thought a rather foolish occupation” just a decade ago is now “a viable option for farmers and landowners” in the UK. Whilst 2022 is expected to be the best year yet for British wine, vineyards throughout the UK are faced with challenges of Brexit-related labour shortages, rising energy prices and supply chain disruptions. Read more here.

To label or not to label, that is the question 

“Should the label on a bottle of Pinot or Pilsner match what’s on a can of soda?So asks Kenny Martin in his recent article in Wine Spectator. Currently, wine labels in the U.S. need only to state the alcohol percent by volume and disclose if the wine contains sulfites “at a level of 10 or more parts per million” or dyes FD&C Yellow No. 5 or cochineal extract.

In February 2022 the Treasury Department  released a research report, “Competition in the Markets for Beer, Wine, and Spirits.” The report concluded that more stringent labelling requirements could increase market competition via increased transparency, whilst protecting public health. The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which regulates alcoholic beverages in the U.S, responded by announcing “potential rulemaking on three separate labelling issues: ingredients, major allergens and statements of alcohol and nutritional content.” However, no actual proposals have yet been submitted.

Martin considers the reaction throughout the industry. Some winemakers support the move towards greater transparency, believing it will help consumers make more informed choices. Others view increased regulation as an “unreasonable economic and logistical burden on producers,” especially smaller ones, that “[risks] alienating consumers with potentially confusing and misleading information. Read more here.

Champagne’s “blissful” 2022 harvest:  A question of quality vs quantity?

In Wine-Searcher Caroline Henry reports on Champagne’s successful harvest, noting the “abundance of healthy grapes” picked this year thanks to “near-perfect ripening conditions.” Although the grapes were slower to ripen this year, many growers were keen to harvest as soon as possible following the difficult 2021 harvest. The Comite Champagne (CIVC) suggested growers wait until potential alcohol degrees reached between 10-10.5 and many growers harvested everything at maximum 10 degrees potential alcohol, following the request of several large champagne houses.

The 2022 harvest has been called “the solar vintage” by the Comite Champagne (CIVC) in their post-harvest press release. However, Henry points out how much of the detail is focused on harvest quantity, which was set this year at the highest on record at 12,000 kg/ha. Looking beyond quantity to focus on quality, Henry probes whether a “blissful” harvest translates into an “excellent” vintage, noting how picking grapes before optimal ripeness impacts the flavour and balance of the grapes.

She talks with a number of producers throughout the region for their views, which you can read here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.