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«The introduction of «appellations d'origine» in Europe and Spain: wine types and wine quality. Juan Pan-Montojo (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) ...»

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Draft version for this Conference use only. Do not quote without author’s permission.

The introduction of «appellations d'origine» in Europe and Spain:

wine types and wine quality.

Juan Pan-Montojo

(Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)



Abstract: In the interwar period the French government was behind the creation of an international

organisation, the Office Internationale du Vin, which aimed both at sharing information among wineproducing countries and to discuss legal, technical and commercial formulae to stabilise the international wine-markets. At the same time a wide debate on the regulation of the French domestic production was taking place. One of the results was that by 1927 what was then termed "naturalist conception" of geographical appellations started to be embodied into the French legislation. Wine definitions and possible appellations, highly influenced by the French ones, were discussed and eventually introduced in other European countries. The naturalist conception, which implied a very specific approach to quality and, eventually, common wine production, was imported in Spain in 1931, after the instauration of the Second Republic, and would become the basis of the 1932 Wine Statute and later norms before the Civil War. The paper explores the forces and reasons behind the adoption of the naturalist conception in France, its connection with the OIV, the spread of the French model in Europe, as well as how it was introduced in Spain and its effects on wine production. Finally it reflects on the relationship between all this legislation and wine quality.


Old and New Worlds: the Global Challenges of Rural History | International Conference, Lisbon, ISCTE-IUL, 27-30 January 2016

1. Introduction Appellations of origin are a complex legal institution through which a growing part of the wine market has been regulated in the European producing countries. The size and difficulties of the legal web that surrounds appellations, and generally the public regulation of the wine sector, has encouraged a conspicuous juridical literature in this field1. Economic analysis is much less present and, despite the institutional, international and political nature of appellations, historical studies in comparative terms hardly exist: one of the few that deals with many countries, Simpson (2011), traces the origins of appellation before the Great War, not their development thereafter.

Any attempt to understand the nature of modern appellations should go back to the period studied by Simpson and not to their 18th century precedents, privileged institutions of the Ancien Régime such as those linked to Port or Tokay or Chianti wines, which, despite outstanding similarities, had little in common with the norms first developed in France, Portugal and Hungary at the beginning of the 20th century, in the middle of a strong crisis of sales of the wine sector.

However, what I will term French model was a formula refined and exported to other countries in the 1920s, when overproduction became a structural problem of viticulture throughout Europe. In this decade the number of sector associations multiplied in all producing countries, and so did the wine congresses at national and international levels, whilst formal or informal lobbies appeared or strengthened. The 1920s saw, moreover, the foundation of the International Office of Wine (O.I.V.), an inter-governmental institution that played a central role in the discussion and promotion of measures to regulate the sector, among them, and in a central position, appellations. After the crack of 1929, that led to a quick reduction of the international wine trade, the major producing countries systematised the wine legislation and gave final shape to the main instruments of market intervention that have survived up until today.

In this paper, I give in the first place a brief introduction to the forces behind the introduction of appellations and their evolution until 1939, stressing the structural factors and the international context that shaped their changes towards a more homogeneous institution throughout Europe, despite the wide differences among sectors and economic policies. In the second place, I give a short account of the Spanish legislation on wine appellations in the 1920s and 1930s. Finally I consider the links between appellations, premium wine and quality.

2. Crisis and reorganization of the wine sector in Europe, 1905-1929 As we have shown in a previous work2, the French market became the crucial factor in the changes of international wine prices after the phylloxera. Spain, Italy, Algeria and Portugal had expanded their vineyards and their wine production in reaction to high prices in the 1870s and 1880s, and the gradual recovery of production in metropolitan France did not lead to a reduction of supply elsewhere nor to a full substitution of imports by domestic production: foreign wine kept a highly flexible part of the French market3. Furthermore, during the final decades of the 19th century the industrial distillation and the development of various chemical flavours and dyestuffs, allowed both the delocalisation of wines and the multiplication of its substitutes.

Therefore, a good harvest in metropolitan France meant a fall of prices of common wine in the international market. Premium wine prices suffered then from the competition of cheaper sorts, especially because of the blending (coupage) of cheap common wine with high-price musts.

Hence the crisis spread to all types of wines.

. Coello (2008) studies the historical and contemporary regulation of appellations in Spain in the international legal context and offers a systematic approach to juridical bibliography.

. Pan-Montojo and Simpson (1997).

. For a general and nuanced account of trends after the turn of the century: Simpson (2011).

Old and New Worlds: the Global Challenges of Rural History | International Conference, Lisbon, ISCTE-IUL, 27-30 January 2016 The central years of the first decade of the century (1904-1907) were characterised by the fall of prices, which went hand in hand with the crise de mévente in France. In most of the producing countries, falling prices had a strong impact, since the costs of production were rising as a consequence of the reconstruction of vineyards after phylloxera. Social unrest mounted in Southern France, Catalonia and certain Italian areas, whilst winegrowers’ organisations developed. The first pieces of specific wine legislation were passed in those years: in France in 1905, in Portugal in 1907, in Hungary in 1908, in Germany and Luxemburg in 1909... Most of these laws were directed towards the definition of wine and the prosecution of frauds (the adulteration of wine, given its legal definition), that is to say, tried to correct the overproduction via the exclusion of the different types of mixtures of alcohol, musts and chemical substances which were sold as wine in domestic markets, although in certain cases the multiplication of vineyards was forbidden too. In Spain, the main enemy of wine growers was the "industrial alcohol" -the alcohol not distilled out of wine, above all the one obtained from sugar molassesand their efforts to push it out of the market were crowned by a new differential tax on it, passed in 1908, even though their formal victory was counterbalanced by a very large fraud to the alcohol tax which rendered ineffectual the legal protection4. In France and Portugal, the legislation covered these fields (taxation on alcohol, definition of wine, and fight against adulteration), but it pioneered as well the way to appellations of origin. In France, as we shall see in more detail in the next section, the 1905 law already punished the use of untrue geographical appellations for wine, whilst a new piece of legislation, in 1908, authorised the public administration to fix the official boundaries of the Bordelais, Bourgogne, Champagne and Cognac regions. In Portugal, the question was polarised by the definition of the area of production of Port, the most important item in Portuguese exports, although the other areas of production of fortified wines (Madeira, Carcavelos and Setubal) were as well fixed. Viticulture commissions were set up in these producing areas in order to control any imports of wines and spirits from the rest of the country and were empowered to give and refuse the appellation to concrete wines5.

The years before the First World War saw a certain stabilisation of wine prices. But the situation changed for the worse in most countries after the war and became critical after 1929, when international trade and prices collapsed: the average of prices in 16 producing countries went down from 2.48 francs in 1927 to 1.21 in 19336. Nevertheless, the director of the O.I.V. stated in his report of 19307, the European wine sector found itself in a situation of chronic overproduction not only as a consequence of the depression, but due to structural problems

which could be dated at least as far back as 1919. He identified three main factors for it:

- the growth of wine production both as a result of the increasing productivity of the old producing areas (new methods of wine making in Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece; new techniques of cultivation and pruning; diffusion of fertilisers; new pesticides) and of the development of new vineyards in Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and French Northern Africa8.

- the decrease of demand in the international market for various reasons: the Russian Revolution, the prohibition in the U.S.A. and Finland, the restrictions on sales of alcoholic beverages in the United Kingdom and different Commonwealth states, and the introduction of higher taxes and duties on wine, considered as a luxury drink in non producing countries.

4. Pan-Montojo and Puig (1996).

. Moreira (1998), pp. 33-37.

. These and other figures are presented in Douarche (1933).

3. Douarche (1930).

. The expansion of vineyards in America, South Africa and Oceania was especially quick between 1914 and 1919, because of the war in Europe. Despite the fact that narrower margins of wine production throughout the 1920s brought about a slow reduction of vines in Europe, production did not stagnate because of the higher productivities. See the accurate analysis of Ritter (1928), pp. 201-215.

Old and New Worlds: the Global Challenges of Rural History | International Conference, Lisbon, ISCTE-IUL, 27-30 January 2016

- the fall of domestic demand in producing countries because of the growing competition from substitutes such as refreshments, coffee, tea, beer, other alcoholic drinks...

Table I. Consumption of beverages in different countries, 1929 (Wine and beer in thousands of hectolitres; coffee in metric quintals; between brackets index with base in 1920)

–  –  –

* Data of 1828 ** Average of 1926-1928 and indexes built on the average of 1921-1925 Source: Douarche (1930), pp. 50-53, on the basis of information gathered by the OIV The data he used to support his analysis were the following: from 1900 to 1929, the surface of vineyards had risen from 6.5 millions of hectares to 7.0, productivity had increased from 19.7 Hl.

per Ha in 1909-1913 to 22.2 in 1926-1929 in Europe (he reported higher increases in other continents), and finally the sum of per capita consumption in the thirteen countries of higher wine demand had gone down from 569.1 to 514.4 litres between 1925 and 1929. The critical situation thus created had, according to his view, no self-correcting mechanism, since producers tended to push up yields through technical changes in order to reduce costs, and since there were no alternative possibilities of cultivation in many of the areas specialised in wine production.

Douarche suggested then an active state regulation to restrict wine production and foster consumption: promoting quality wine via appellations and outlawing of hybrids and malpractices, as well as via state fiscal support and technological advice, and increasing foreign outlets through trade agreements to reduce tariffs... This view was basically the one endorsed by the international Wine Congresses of Bordeaux in 1928 and Barcelona in 1929, as well as by the Viticulture Section of the International Congress of Agriculture in Bucharest, in 1929. And national regulations of different types actually multiplied in reaction to this broadly accepted interpretation. In Hungary, the Law on Viticulture and Wine Consortiums, in 1929, enforced the constitution of local councils of wine growers with broad powers in relation to varieties, authorised techniques, harvesting..., and subjected every aspect of production and marketing of wine to public controls9. In Romania the government decided to restrict the use of hybrids and promote the growth of autochthonous varieties through different norms in 1925-27, and two

4. See the full text of the law, in Bulletin International du Vin, December, 1930, nº 31, pp. 14-35.

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