Posts Tagged ‘Margaret River’

St Emilion and the mysteries of the Appelation Controllee system (continued)

Following my last post, I have been considering this new understanding of the appellation controllee system against the quality systems that we follow in the Margaret River wine region.

In Australia, the wine industry is much less tightly regulated and the recent “grape glut” has placed pressure on wineries to optimise financial returns, often at the expense of quality and tradition.
Helen at St Emilion
The proliferation of ‘cleanskins’ reflect the wineries attempts to offload poorer wines at below market price to maintain cashflow.

These wines are often ‘mongrels’, made with grapes and grape products brought in from distant places and diverse terroirs. Such ’supermarket’ wines are cost effective for producers and cheap for wine drinkers, but lack the complexity and surprises that are the hallmark of a living terroir and changeable climate.

The Margaret River wine region is recognised as a world-class producer of fine wines, but the appellation is not as regulated as in France and the grape-growing and wine-making techniques are not always at a high standard.

In my view the Margaret River wine industry should consider a St-Emillion model, with tighter regualtion of the use of the Margaret River appellation to promote and protect the reputations of quality wineries and encourage the maintenance of the best of best grape-growing and wine-making traditions.

I must get back to work, but am looking forward to getting home and applying my newly-acquired (but still sadly limited) wine appreciation techniques to the latest Treeton Estate vintages. I will appreciate the wine more knowing that David and Corinne continue to maintain traditional techniques and standards of excellence in their wine-making.

Helen McGowan

St Emilion and the mysteries of the Appelation Controllee system

I have strong links to the winery, with happy memories of Treeton Estate, being David’s niece and recently becoming a part-owner of the winery. I have been travelling in France before starting a study leave program at Strathclyde University and wanted to pen a few lines on the Bordeaux region, a place David remembers fondly from his time in the French wine industry.
(C) 2008 Helen McGowan
I centred my time in St Emilion, an enchanting medieval village which is UNESCO heritage–protected and has been a region of wine-making excellence for centuries. The traditions are revered, treasured and nurtured.

As many of you probably know, France has had a long tradition of restricting an appellations to specific regions and quality wines. Hence only sparkling wine produced by methode champenoise in the Champagne region is rightfully (and now legally) called Champagne. The processes which allow a winery to use AOC (Appellation-Origine-Controlle) certification involves regulations regarding watering, pruning and planting processes and also tends to restrict certain varieties of wine to specific regions in the belief that a particular terroir is optimal for some grapes.

St Emilion is an appellation within the Bordeaux region. Wineries within this appellation are tested using rigorous testing methods every 10 years. This involves a series of blind tastings by wine masters, who taste a sample of every vintage over the previous 10 years and grade the winery on quality and consistency. The final gradings awarded are 1) Premiers Grands Crus Classés A 2) Premiers Grands Crus Classés B 3) Grands Crus Classés 4) Appellation Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Controlé and 5) Apellation Saint-Emilion Controlée. Wineries are entitled to display these on their bottles for the next ten years and have a marked impact on the sales price of the wine and the wineries.
(C) 2008 Helen McGowan
There is a marked variation in the quality of wines with this rigorous quality control and those that are mass produced for table wines. St Emilion is unusual in France in that the wineries submit to this process every 10 years, where as in many other French regions, the gradings were done more than 100 years ago, so may not reflect accurately the quality of the wines today and also limit the ability of new wine makers to establish a reputation.

Helen McGowan