On Friday 27 January, the Conseil d’État (the highest French administrative court) overturned the 2014 decree stating that wines bearing the Pomerol PDO must be vinified within the appellation, thus ruling in favour of seven plaintiffs who own vines in Pomerol but have cellars outside the appellation.
To recap, in August 2014, a decree ratifying an amendment to the Pomerol PDO specification stated that cellars used to vinify wines with this appellation must be located within the geographical boundaries of the production area and not in neighbouring appellations, as was sometimes the case. This ministerial decree overruled the principle of an “immediately adjoining area”, which previously allowed vinification and ageing to take place outside the appellation boundary in a neighbouring area. The Pomerol syndicat viticole (winegrowers’ professional association) and wine producers who own vines in Pomerol but whose cellars are outside the appellation have been at loggerheads for several years and, following this decree, the seven adversely affected wine producers took their case to the Conseil d’État. One of the plaintiffs, Paul Goldschmidt, owner of Château Siaurac, condemned the absurd nature of this type of rule: « Our winery is 2km from Pomerol, and the location of the cellar has absolutely no impact on the quality of the wine. »
In a ruling on 27 January, the Conseil d’État delivered a verdict overturning the decree of 18 August 2014 and the court awarded symbolic damages of €3,000 to be shared between the seven plaintiffs. This ruling came as a huge relief to the wine producers affected, but the matter may not be definitively resolved. The Pomerol syndicat viticole is due to submit a new proposal to the INAO (French committee for Protected Designations of Origin) which must then be ratified by the Ministry of Agriculture and the European Union.
This story is reminiscent of the case of Jacky Blot and François Chidaine, whose wines were also downgraded to “Vins de France” for similar reasons. Some will doubtless say that there are more pressing priorities than whether a wine is vinified one kilometre outside the PDO boundary.
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