Since the issue was made public by the Fédération des grands vins de Bordeaux (FGVB), a southwestern winemakers union, France has made it a question of pride.
For the FGVB, allowing American wines to be described as from a chateau would lead to a “distortion of competition”.
In France and in Europe more generally the label “Chateau” describes a wine produced within a certain geographical area with certain grapes picked and fermented on site, as defined in EU law. In the US the grapes can come from different growers.
After arriving in Brussels on Monday (24 September) for a meeting with his European counterparts, the French agriculture minister, Stéphane Le Foll, was informed by the Commission that it had been postponed. No new date has as yet been fixed.
This small victory for France may be short lived. Paris is without support on this subject and Le Foll knows it. With this deal, other countries see a possibility to open new markets, which could at the same time benefit some French wine producers.
At the beginning of September, winemakers earned the right to specify the vintage and the grape variety of table wines exported to the United States, which benefits major French and European traders.
Since the outset of the case, Brussels has underlined that between 2006 and 2009, American wines were already authorised to use the word ‘chateau’.
The EU executive said this previous deal benefited everyone. The US’s demand was examined and subsequently filed in 2010, without French opposition, the Commission said.
“French experts were even consulted”, said the agriculture commissioner, Dacian Cioloş, during a press conference on 24 September. “I would not discuss something without consulting the member states”, he said.
For Cioloş, the decision is “technical”, not political.
No new timeline has been defined, but the final decision may be made in the following weeks.