The terroir of the ‘future’ Quarts de Shame?
Later this month the Syndicat des Quarts de Chaume will meet to decide whether to allow cryoextraction to concentrate musts destined for Quarts de Chaume. I gather that two of the producers have asked the Syndicat to permit its use.
A quite extraordinary turn of events I think as there have already been two successful court cases to defend the high reputation of Quarts de Chaume against the apparently overweening ambitions of the Chaume producers.
Quarts de Chaume is one of the three crus of Anjou along with Bonnezeaux and Savennières – so far the top classification in the hierarchy of Anjou wines. Currently it is proposed that Quarts de Chaume should become a grand cru and Chaume a premier cru.
Provided the vineyards in the Layon are properly managed and yields kept down – the décret only permits 25 hl/ha anyway – then it is possible to make at least reasonable quality in the Layon every year even in very difficult years. This is especially true in the Quarts de Chaume with its natural advantages of steep slopes close to the River Layon. There ought to be no need to use artificial devices here. Cryoextration involves removing excess water through freezing thus concentrating the must.
The two legal actions were brought to defend the high reputation of the Quarts de Chaume and to ensure that the consumer was not confused between Quarts de Chaume and Chaume Premier Cru. Yet should the Syndicat agree to the use of cryoextraction they will do real and lasting damage to their reputation, Also, unless producers who do use cryoextraction clearly state this on the label, the consumer will surely be deceived as they will very reasonably assume that a Quarts de Chaume fully reflects its site and is produced in as natural a way as possible rather than being a product of artifice.
The use of cryoextraction allows to producers to cut corners to pick at lower levels of ripeness and sugar and to benefit from higher yields as the greater the concentration in a grape the smaller the amount of juice. A further problem with cryoextration is that it concentrates not only the good, but equally the bad.
I trust that the Syndicat will reject decisively the use cryoextraction in the Quarts de Chaume. It has no place here. After all if a must needs to be concentrated by cryoextration it does not merit the Quarts de Chaume appellation.
Juste un tout petit résumé en français pour les moins familiers de la langue de Shakespeare et de Lady Gaga: certains vignerons de Quarts de Chaume demandent de légaliser la cryoextraction - ce sera à l'ODG d'en décider. La cohérence de ce projet avec le prestige d'une AOC qui est parvenue à interdire en justice l'usage de la mention Chaume Premier Cru ne nous apparaît guère.
Et j'ajouterai: il est facile de se plaindre du gouvernement ou de l'administration, soit pour leur interventionnisme, soit pour leur non-inverventionnisme. Mais là, ce sont les vignerons qui décident de leur avenir.