The Great Bordeaux Chateau Controversy

    What’s in a name?

     If you’re talking about the wineries of Bordeaux, a lot.

     Or not so much — depending on how you look at it.

     Allow me to explain.

     Bordeaux — the most famous winegrowing region in the world, with apologies to Napa Valley — is home to somewhere around 7,000 wineries, or chateaux. Yet there are more than 12,000 chateau names gracing Bordeaux bottles.

     What gives?

     Well, even though the practice was outlawed by decree 87 years ago, it’s a common practice for a single chateau to use multiple chateau names. It might bottle a specific cuvee under one name for supermarkets, under another name for restaurants, and under still more names for specific export markets.

     Now, there’s a renewed effort to get vintners to follow the 1921 decree and stick to one label — or two at the most.

     Explained Thomas Julien, marketing manager of Bordeaux’s wine trade association: “We want customers to feel that when they buy a wine from Bordeaux, they can have confidence in where it comes from.”

     The world of French wine is complicated. There’s the issue of dealing with a foreign (to most) language. There’s the fear of embarrassment associated with mispronouncing a chateau’s name. There’s the extremely complicated and confusing appellation system.

     Given all of that, cutting down on the number of chateau names probably is a very good idea.

     I probably won’t get any better at pronouncing the names… but at least there will be fewer names for me to verbally butcher.


Posted in Editor's Journal
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