AOC committee rejects a top Muscadet


Domaine de l’Ecu, a conscientious estate in Muscadet that makes some of the region’s best wines, has had one of their wines rejected by an approval committee.

To have the right to bear the appellation, a French wine must meet all the rules, which pertain to things like which vines can be planted in a delimited zone, maximum yields and so on. The final aspect of approval is a blind tasting by a committee, allegedly to assure “typicité” or that the wine tastes typical of the region. Usually this is a rubber stamp. But tasting committees, particularly in the Loire Valley where Muscadet lies on the western edge, have been showing a tendency to reject some wines. Paradoxically, those are often singular wines that strive for excellence. In so doing, the AOC system becomes more of an obstruction to quality than an institution to undergird it as it reinforces middling or bland wines.

The estate was founded by Guy Bossard. But it was Frédéric Niger Van Herck, a partner and the winemaker at Domaine de l’Ecu, posted the news that their “Expression de Granite” 2012, one of three bottlings that express the different soil types, has been denied the approval of the tasting committee. Here what he said on FB:

News of the day: Granite 2012 has just been rejected by the AOC tasting committee–and unanimously, no less… Promised for next year, full-on chemistry, mechanical harvesting, commercial yeasts, full use of enzymes, and sulphur galore… It should pass that way. 🙂

The worst thing is that everything is sold out and have nothing left… When will these official tastings end that turn the beautiful into standardized products? [my translation]

Long live the French wine!

He elaborated that the panel of five tasters judged his wine to be oxidized, adding “what a bunch of…”

Clearly the AOC has a problem: by rejecting wines from quality producers, they risk becoming a laughingstock by enshrining mediocrity.

(Update) Tech specs on the 2011 Granite:

Grape Variety: 100% Melon de Bourgogne
SURFACE: 3 ha. AGE OF THE VINE: 45-55 years old.

Characteristics of the territory:
Orientation of the slopes is SOUTH WEST. Stony soil. Sub-sol: Two-Mica Granite.

40-45 hl. Soil ploughing and soil scraping. Canopy management.
PRUNING: Simple Guyot.

Vinification and refining:
Organically farmed since 1975. Biodynamic – Demeter certified since 1998.
100 % hand-picked grapes
Reception of the grape harvest by gravity, no use of pumps.
Pneumatic pressure
No racking of the must
Fermentation: 100 % natural yeast
Temperature control: 15°- 17 °.
Aged “ON THE LEES” in underground vats

Bettane et Desseauve : 16.5/20 (page 807)
Sélection Parker des vins : vins à moins de 20€ (page 337)
Gault et Millaut : 16/20 (page 998)

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16 Responses to “AOC committee rejects a top Muscadet”

  1. Would like some more facts here. Is this a no sulphur wine? Can it — will it — be released anyway, and if so, with what designation?

    Could the committee have been right?

    And, will this notoriety perhaps help sales?

  2. Of course, AOCs, DOs, etc. are usually controlled by the big winery powers that be and so they want to require wines that conform to their (often) commercial standards.

  3. Blake – I added some tech specs to the original post from the Domaine’s tech sheet.

    Sadly, nothing on sulfur. I guess you’ll have to ask Fred for the full details.

    No, the wine can’t be released as a Muscadet without approval of the committee. The domaine will have a chance to submit another sample. Otherwise, they would have to release it as another, non-AOC wine, which has been done before. But, generally, quality producers in France have shown a reluctance to do that.

  4. […] From Dr. Vino: […]

  5. Well, he joins some distinguished company. Thierry Puzelat’s Le Telquel, rejected by the Touraine AOC; Robert and Bernard Plageoles’ Duras, rejected by the Gailliac AOC; and Lionel Maurel’s “Yo No Puedo Mas,” rejected by the Languedoc AOC. And I’m sure there are more…if the French don’t watch out they’re going to end up like the Italians, with the top stuff going out as vin de table.

  6. Thanks Tyler. Key point in the tech specs: No racking of the must.

    Since the wine already has positive reviews, it shouldn’t be a problem to sell it. Look at me: I confess I haven’t tried this wine before, and now I want to.

  7. Wine Searcher Pro shows the wine for sale in France. Was only one of the bottling runs of this wine rejected?

  8. Dave,

    Thevenet Macon Vire-Clesse from over 20 years ago is another example of a producer striving for highest quality and being rejected for not being typical.

    Adam Lee
    Siduri Wines

  9. If the following is true, and I don’t know that it is, it would change the story.

    “…Was only one of the bottling runs of this wine rejected?”

    Tyler, I think you need to find out more. I don’t believe the view of the producer is enough information.

    Mind you, I am not defending the tasting panel or even the AOC in its present stage.

    In fact, I am recommending good investigative journalism.

    Like Blake Grey, however, I would like to find this wine and taste it for myself, so the promotion value of the story is evident.

  10. Sorry, that’s Blake Gray.

  11. Thanks for the questions raised here. I have sent them on to Fred Niger van Herck and invited him to join the conversation.

  12. Interesting blog post, and not surprising at all. My guess is that there are lots of wines rejected by AOC panels for not being ‘typical’ of that region, etc.

    The real question that we’ll never know, of course, is if that bottle or those bottles submitted truly were overly oxidized. If they were, would the committee have been justified in rejecting these?

    Could you imagine a similar practice here in the US? Yikes!

    C’est la vie . . .


  13. Larry,

    Here in the United States it is just wine writers that reject wines for not being “typical” (unless, of course, it is carbonic macerated Mourvedre — then it atypical character is revolutionary). 🙂

    Adam Lee
    Siduri Wines

  14. Adam.

    You crack me up, my friend!!!


  15. Adam, if you’ll agree to change your comment to refer to “wine critics” instead of “wine writers” I’ll agree with your comment 😉

  16. […] Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) committee rejects a top Muscadet […]


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