Burgundy Vintner Andre Porcheret Receives French Knighthood

Apr 30, 1999
Andre Porcheret, the Hospices de Beaune winemaker who caused a stir in late 1997 when he admitted to adding both sugar and acid to grape juice prior to fermentation, has been named a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur -- the French equivalent to knighthood.

"It's a great honor for me," Porcheret, 62, said in the French press. "Especially after that sad period when they wanted to bring me down for the 'acid-sugar' affair. Fortunately the European Commission has come into the modern age."

In the past, Burgundian winemakers were forbidden to add both sugar (a process called chaptalization) and acid to the same batch of wine during or prior to fermentation. However, some vintners performed the two procedures secretly to avoid the wrath of lawmakers. Last year, after much debate, the French government authorized the practice.

Chaptalization adds sugar to increase the alcohol content; it's often done because the grapes aren't ripe enough. Acidification stabilizes a wine by adding tartaric acid when grapes lack natural acidity.

Porcheret had long considered it hypocritical for Burgundians to outlaw a process that was not harmful and, he argued, improved the wine. After the 1997 harvest, he announced that he had both chaptalized and acidified the Hospices de Beaune wines. With the issue in the public eye, local winemakers and government authorities were forced to address the subject. In 1998, the law was changed to allow Burgundians to add sugar and acid to the same batch of wine, though they cannot do both operations at the same time.

Porcheret announced recently that he would be stepping down from his position at the Hospices de Beaune to devote his energies to Domaine Monthelie Douhairet Porcheret, his own Meursault estate. He has also been hired as a consultant by Beringer Wine Estates in Napa Valley to assist that winery group in its efforts with Pinot Noir.

For more on Porcheret and the acid-sugar issue:

  • December 31, 1998
    They Won, We Lost

  • December 29, 1998
    Burgundy Comes to California

  • January 31, 1998
    The Sweet With the Sour: Burgundy winemakers own up to doctoring their wines with both sugar and acid

  • November 18, 1997
    Burgundy Prices Rise Sharply at Bellwether Auction Despite Battle Over Winemaking Techniques

  • November 15, 1997
    Burgundian Winemaker Tries Square Wine Barrel

  • December 31, 1994
    Hospices Auction Bounces Back With Porcheret's Wines

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