There's a scandal percolating in the French wine industry, if a consumer rights group is on target.
According to France's UFC-Que Choisir, one in three of all wines marketed under France's regional appellation system -- from Bordeaux to Cahors, Saint-Emilion or Sancerre -- do not deserve the label.
The French classification system recognizes wines from 470 regions as an "appellation d'origine controlee" (AOC). The system, based on the notion of "terroir" according to which wine-growing areas have specific characters, is being enforced poorly, the consumer group charged on Monday.
"For a number of years, we've seen a steady fall in quality in a number of AOCs, which has completely undermined consumer confidence," Alain Bazot, the association's head, told a news conference.
UFC said one-third of AOC bottles are of sub-standard quality or insufficiently linked to the region. It questioned the impartiality of the AOC award panels made up of local wine professionals. This is particularly troublesome since AOC wines account for 44% of all French wine production.
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