Warning: These wine law changes will make your head spin!

Warning: These wine law changes will make your head spin!

If you thought a lot of wine law changes were going on last year, you are absolutely correct. I was stunned to see the amount of modifications happening worldwide in 2011. And what’s even more amazing is that the below list only highlights the most significant changes from last year! I would like to thank the Guild of Sommeiliers for allowing me to repost this information.

Now memorize this stuff carefully, because there will be a test at the end!!!

2011 Wine Law Update

The following new DOCG zones were formally approved in 2011:
Veneto: Montello Rosso, Friularo di Bagnoli, Colli di Conegliano
Toscana: Rosso della Val di Cornia, Suvereto, Montecucco Sangiovese, Elba Aleatico Passito
Marches: Offida
Lazio: Frascati Superiore, Cannellino di Frascati
Fruili: Rosazzo
Emilia-Romagna: Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto
Campania: Aglianico del Taburno
Castel del Monte Bombino Nero, Castel del Monte Nero di Troia, Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva, Tavoliere delle Puglia

In Asti DOCG, three legal subzones now exist: Canelli, Strevi, and Santa Vittoria d’Alba.  All three subzones only produce Moscato d’Asti.  Maximum pressure for Moscato d’Asti has been raised to 2 atmospheres.  Moscato d’Asti late harvest (Vendemmia Tardiva) wines may be produced.

VDP Erste Lage sweet wines may be released on May 1 of the year following the harvest.  Grosses Gewächs dry whites are not released until September 1.

In southern Napa, Coombsville has been formally approved by the TTB as a new AVA.  In Sonoma County, Fort Ross-Seaview AVA has been approved.  The coastal AVA is located with Sonoma Coast AVA, south of the Annapolis area.  Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA, new in 2011, is located in northern Sonoma County and southern Mendocino County and overlaps part of Alexander Valley.

At the close of 2011, the TTB approved Naches Heights AVA, a region within Columbia Valley in Washington state.

South Africa
Elandskloof is a new ward within Overberg.  Napier is another new ward located in the Cape South Coast region.  It is not located within a district.

As of 2008, producers in Argentina may use the terms “Reserva” and “Gran Reserva” for white and red wines produced from certain varities.  To qualify for “Reserva”, white wines must age for a minimum six months prior to release, and reds must age for a minimum twelve months prior to release.  Minimum aging increases to one and two years, respectively, for white and red “Gran Reserva” wines.

In 2011, the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture approved a new set of geographical terms, based on east/west geography rather than north/south geography (Ministry of Agriculture Decree # 16, an amendment to the original 1994 Decree # 464).  Now producers may use the designations “Costa” (coast), “Entre Cordilleras” (between mountains), or “Andes” to reflect the proximity of their vineyards to the coast or the mountains.  These new appellations may complement the existing appellations on labels in the future.  A min. 85% of grapes must be grown in the listed appellation.

France Wine Law System
Confusion has reigned regarding the alignment of France’s traditional appellation system with the Common Market Organization reforms of the EU, but it is now clear that AOC and AOP are intended to be complementary designations.  AOP will not entirely replace AOC on labels; rather, producers have the choice of using one or the other.  Vin de Pays and IGP are likewise complementary designations.  VDQS has been eliminated, leaving three tiers of French wine appellations: AOC/AOP, Vin de Pays/IGP, and Vin de France.

“Côtes de Francs” was eliminated as a geographical designation for Bordeaux AOC/AOP.

In 2011, maximum yield requirements for nearly all village, premier cru, and grand cru appellations were raised, as were the requirements for minimum must weights.  Monopole grand crus now require manual harvesting—an amendment to AOC rules that reflects the tradition in these vineyards.

While Burgundy’s greatest vineyards saw yields increase in 2011, base yields in the crus of Beaujolais decreased, from 58 hl/ha to 56 hl/ha.

Coteaux Bourguignons AOC/AOP is the new name for an old appellation, Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire.  Blended red, rosé, and white wines are authorized.

In Pays Nantais, 3 former VDQS zones received AOC/AOP status: Gros Plant du Pays Nantais, Fiefs Vendéens, and Coteaux d’Ancenis.  In the tradition of Muscadet, Gros Plant wines may be labeled “Sur Lie”.  Coteaux d’Ancenis produces red and white wines; white wines from the appellation are off-dry, varietal versions of Pinot Gris.

In Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, the “Cru Communaux” proposal raised over a decade ago has finally been adopted into AOC law.  Three crus (subzones) now exist: Clisson, Gorges, and Le Pallet.  It is expected that more will follow shortly.  These wines are aged on the lees for a longer period of time than is legally allowed for the “Sur Lie” designation, and therefore may not list that term on the label.

In Anjou, two former crus (subzones) of Savennières are now fully-fledged, separate appellations: Savennières Coulée de Serrant AOC/AOP and Savennières Roche Aux Moines AOC/AOP.  Both totally prohibit chaptalization, and each has tighter controls on yields, and higher minimum must weight and minimum potential alcohol requirements than the basic Savennières AOC/AOP.

In the Coteaux du Layon region, producers of Quarts du Chaume are legally allowed to label their wines as “grand cru” from the 2010 vintage forward.  The new AOC regulations for the appellation bar cryo-extraction and require a new minimum 85 g/l of residual sugar, up from a prior 34 g/l.  Quarts du Chaume now mandates the highest minimum residual sugar level of any non-fortified wine in France.  With the approval of the “grand cru” designation for Quarts du Chaume, producers of Chaume (a geographic designation for Coteaux du Layon) may once again label their wines “premier cru”.

In addition to Mesland, Amboise, and Azay-le-Rideau, Touraine AOC/AOP has 2 new subzones, Oisly and Chenonceaux.  White wines from both subzones are produced solely from Sauvignon Blanc.  Reds from Chenonceaux are blends of Cabernet Franc, Cot, and Gamay.

South of Touraine and Anjou, the former VDQS Haut-Poitou has been elevated to AOC/AOP status.  Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the principal grapes for the region’s white, red, and rosé wines.

In Central France, near St-Pourçain, Côtes d’Auvergne is now AOC/AOP.

Alsace and Lorraine:
Moselle joins Côtes de Toul as an AOC/AOP of Lorraine.  The region’s principal grapes are Pinot Noir and Auxerrois.

In Alsace, Riesling now has a maximum required residual sugar level.  All varietal Riesling from Alsace AOC/AOP may contain no more than 9 g/l of residual sugar, making the wines effectively dry.  This does not apply wines labeled “Vendanges Tardives” or “Sélection de Grains Nobles”, nor does it apply to Grand Cru wines or wines labeled as a lieu-dit.  This applies from the 2008 harvest forward.

Several new geographic designations join Klevener de Heiligenstein under the Alsace AOC/AOP: Blienschwiller, Côtes de Barr, Scherwiller, Vallée Noble, Val Saint Grégoire, Wolxheim, Ottrott, Rodern, Saint-Hippolyte and Côte de Rouffach.

Southern France and the Rhône:
In Provence, white wines have been added to the Les Baux de Provence AOC/AOP.
Going forward, Rasteau’s VDN wines will be labeled in a manner similar to Rivesaltes.  White VDN wines are either “blanc” or “ambré”, indicating either a fresher or a more oxidative, tawny style.  Red VDN wines are “grenat” or “tuilé”.  Maury and Banyuls have adopted these terms as well.

Maury AOC/AOP may now produce non-fortified, dry reds.  Maury and Baixas, which appeared as subzones for Côtes du Roussillon-Villages in early 2011 on the INAO’s official site, are not listed in the appellation’s most recent revision of its regulations.

Languedoc’s system of Grand Crus and Grand Vins is seemingly still under discussion and revision.  As of the close of 2011, the Languedoc AOC/AOP subzones La Clape and Pic-St-Loup have not yet achieved AOC/AOP status.

In Southwest France, a number of former VDQS zones now enjoy AOC/AOP status: Estaing, Entraygues-Le Fel, Brulhois, Côtes de Millau, Coteaux du Quercy, Saint-Mont, Saint Sardos, and Tursan.

The subzone “Bellocq” in Béarn has been eliminated.

The minimum percentage of Tannat in the Madiran encépagement has been raised to 60%.

…and now for the test:

[poll id=’1′]

Now imagine if you were a Master Sommelier candidate having to keep up with all of these rules! Dang!  Which reminds me, have you heard of the new documentary coming out this year, called SOMM? Keep an eye out for it!


About the Author:

Editor and co-founder of Enobytes.com, Pamela is a sommelier and former restaurant manager and wine buyer with Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), Court of Master Sommeliers & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.


  1. grapes of wrath February 8, 2012 at 6:52 AM - Reply

    I can’t believe there are so many of them. This is crazy.

  2. Grant D February 8, 2012 at 7:39 AM - Reply

    Yikes! That is one long list!

  3. Joanne February 8, 2012 at 10:02 AM - Reply

    ok, but where is the answer to the Alsace/Riesling quiz?

  4. Bill Warry February 8, 2012 at 10:30 AM - Reply

    I bet I have experienced the most ridiculous wine laws ever: – Some years ago I was involved in the import to the UK of the 9% ABV wine Plume wine from the Languedoc area of France. Stock was frozen in bond and I was told by the wine standards board that this drink could not be called wine because it had been brought below 9% by artificial means (a process of reverse osmosis). However, I could import it if we changed the labels and had it approved by the “food standards” board as “fermented grapejuice”. We did this, but sadly fermented grapejuice just did not carry the same weight with customers as “a light picnic wine”. The EU directive in question allowed the French to call it wine in their country. If ever I thought the inmates were in charge of the asylum when it came to law-making it was over this experience.

    • Pamela Heiligenthal February 8, 2012 at 5:47 PM - Reply

      Dang, are you kidding? This is about as wacky as it gets…thanks for sharing Bill!

      • Bill Warry February 9, 2012 at 11:39 PM - Reply

        I forgot to mention: A year or two later the law changed and one could call this “fermented grape juice”, “wine”, but by that time we had lost the momentum with our customers.

  5. David February 9, 2012 at 7:39 AM - Reply

    And just when I thought I knew enough along comes this list! I’m already freaking out about my WSET exam :-)

    • Pamela Heiligenthal February 10, 2012 at 5:54 PM - Reply

      I bottle of wine should calm the nerves! Seriously, don’t freak yourself out! You’ll do fine.

  6. Brenda F. Jenkins February 9, 2012 at 9:38 PM - Reply

    I can’t imagine the effort it took to approve all of these changes.

    • Bill Warry February 10, 2012 at 10:34 AM - Reply

      And the authorities can pat themselves on the back for having created those extra jobs out of nothing!

      • Pamela Heiligenthal February 10, 2012 at 5:56 PM - Reply

        The unemployment rate dropped 5% in all countries !!!

  7. Nicholas K. February 9, 2012 at 9:54 PM - Reply

    Totally wacko!

  8. Mandy February 10, 2012 at 10:58 AM - Reply

    I wonder how many people were involved in recommending and approving this list. Astonishing.

  9. […] Warning: These wine law changes will make your head spin! […]

  10. pkwebmarket February 19, 2012 at 11:17 AM - Reply

    I can’t believe there are so many of them.
    Thanks Totally wacko.

    • enobytes February 19, 2012 at 4:41 PM - Reply


  11. Brenda Board March 9, 2012 at 9:36 AM - Reply

    Shocking…..could it be global warming!

    • enobytes March 10, 2012 at 9:40 AM - Reply


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