The French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system may not be perfect, but for winemakers it can provide crucial recognition of their terroir's greatness—and serve as a valuable marketing tool. Earlier this month, the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine), the body that governs the appellations, approved the creation of four new AOCs in Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. Producers in Burgundy hope that their two new appellations will improve sales of low-cost wines. In the Southern Rhône, one appellation is being elevated, while another is eager for a name change. All the AOC changes should now be approved by the French Ministry for Agriculture within a few months, if no serious objections are raised.
• Côteaux Bourguignons—Winegrowers have requested that the AOC Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire appellation be re-baptized Côteaux Bourguignons. "Nobody markets wine under the existing appellation anymore as it doesn't have a good ring to it," says Pierre-Henry Gagey, managing director of Louis Jadot. Like the old Grand Ordinaire, Côteaux Bourguignons will be situated at the bottom of the classification system in Burgundy, underneath the Bourgogne appellation, reserved for low-priced brands. The rules for the new appellation will be similar to its predecessor's—wines can be made from either Chardonnay or Gamay and/or Pinot Noir sourced from the greater Burgundy region, including Beaujolais. With demand for Beaujolais Nouveau shrinking, growers planted 500 new acres of Chardonnay in Beaujolais last year.
• Bourgogne Côte d'Or—This appellation will be for low-cost wines from the Côtes de Nuit and Côtes de Beaune areas. Up until now, these wines had been simply marketed as Bourgogne. "The new name will offer a guarantee that a wine is of a good standard of quality, made from this specific zone and exclusively from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, rather than Gamay," says grower Philippe Charlopin. Consumers can expect 700,000 bottles of Bourgogne Côte d'Or to hit the market in 2012.
• Grignon Lès Adhémar—The Côteaux de Tricastin appellation, located 30 miles north of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, will change its name to AOC Grignon Lès Adhémar, the name of a local village. The appellation has suffered from its proximity to the Tricastin nuclear power plant, which experienced a uranium leak in 2008. As a result, sales of the area's annual production of 15 million bottles dropped by 40 percent over the past two years. The new appellation's reds, whites and rosés will appear as of the 2010 vintage.
• Rasteau—Twenty miles farther south, producers of dry red wines labeled Rasteau Côtes du Rhône Villages will soon shorten the name to Rasteau beginning with the 2009 offerings. Until now, the Rasteau AOC was reserved for the area's red fortified wines. The new extension elevates Rasteau reds up to the status of Cru, alongside Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel, Lirac, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes de Venise and Vinsobres. "INAO's decision officially recognizes the quality of our terroir and clarifies our image with wine lovers," says Jean-Jacques Dost, managing director of the Rasteau co-operative winery. Sweet wines will also include Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) on the label.