About those 'French wine' labels ...

The world of French wine continues its topsy-turvy course.

Not bad enough, cry the purists, that rather than letting wine age in wood some makers are adding wood chips to the wine to speed up the mellowing process -- and with government sanction, no less. Now, a move is afoot to allow winemakers to blend middle-of-the-road wines from different regions and sell them under the "Vignobles de France" label.

The new marketing ploy is aimed at propping up the nation's slumping wine industry. Proponents say such a move will allow them to better compete in the global marketplace where wines from the New World, Australia and New Zealand are consistently gaining market share. On the other hand, opponents of the move say it is short-sighted and want to stick with the traditional French preference for "terroir" labels -- Languedoc, Bordeaux, Alsace, etc. -- as a proven strength.

"We are trying to link together the word 'France,' the name of a grape and the name of a brand on which a company can invest over the long term and earn some money," Michel Leguay, deputy director for technical issues at Viniflhor, the wine industry board, told the Reuters news service.

He explained that the change would allow a wine distributor to create a bottle of sauvignon that would be made up of wine from the sauvignon grape from different regions. This would mean they could tailor the wine according to different tastes.

"It could produce a sauvignon that has a bit of acidity, of the aroma from the Loire and a bit of roundness and a more mature aroma from the Languedoc," Leguay told Reuters. "It could just as well be a product that has more sugar for Japan or wines that are a bit more structured for the United States with a bit more of a woody flavor."

The new labeling is projected for a spring implementation.

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