«The introduction of «appellations d'origine» in Europe and Spain: wine types and wine quality. Juan Pan-Montojo (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) ...»
4. The International Office of Wine (O.I.V.) and its role In the International Congress of Agriculture of Rome, in 1903, a the Section on Vine and Wine passed several resolutions in favour of international rules for the sector. It asked for a commission that should study and publish a general classification of varieties, for another one to unify the methods and criteria of analysis of wines and finally for an International Convention to settle the questions of appellations. To urge and coordinate these projects, a Permanent International Committee of Viticulture was elected, as a section of the International Commission of Agriculture. The creation of this specialised Committee reflected the importance of the international market for the wine industry and the peculiar nature of its structural problems. It did not have, however, any instruments to go beyond some yearly meetings and the organisation of some international congresses. The deepening of the sector problems was to alter things after World War I.
In June 1923 a conference of wine exporting countries met in Paris, convoked by the French Government. Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece sent representatives to this meeting. Two were the items on the agenda: definition of wine and propaganda of the product. The shared view that something had to be done to counter the anti-alcohol campaigns and fight prohibitionism, decided the participants to study the creation of an International Office of Wine. A second conference took place in 1924 and in its course an "arrangement"24 to found the new international organisation was signed. The functions of the new institution, listed in article 1 of the Arrangement, reflected its consideration as a weapon against overproduction in wineproducing countries: propaganda of wine, gathering information on legal regulations "in order to protect the wine interests and improve the conditions of the international wine market", pointing to member states any international conventions that might help the wine transactions and submitting any proposals that could back appellations of origin and fight frauds. The Office had no powers of its own: it was just an intergovernmental institution with very heterogeneous delegates and a scarce budget, but it managed to acquire a clear influence. Its monthly publication, the Bulletin International du Vin, its Annuaire, and the assembly every semester of politicians, diplomats and high bureaucrats related to wine in producing countries, were to offer more than a forum for the discussion of new concepts and policies.
The International Office was from the very start highly related to French wine policies. It had its headquarters in Paris, was headed by a Frenchman, used French as working language and accepted as members French colonies that were, in the 1920s, very far away from any sovereign power, such as Tunisia and Morocco. In fact it encountered certain problems to achieve its objective of being the organisation of all wine producers, precisely because of its perceived subordination to French interests: Spain stated from its very joining in the Office, its reserves with regards to appellations; Commonwealth producers never accepted the continuous invitations to become member states. Nevertheless, the fact that France was not only one of the most important wine producers and exporters, but the first world importer, gave it clear advantages from all points of view. Australia, South Africa or Chile (with a reduced production and a preferential metropolitan market in the first two cases, and hardly any exports at all in the third one) could ignore both French policies and the O.I.V. but Spain or Italy did not have that possibility. The O.I.V. took the sharp edge off French national interests, acting however as the centre of diffusion of its models in every single field related to wine-growing. Wine standards,. With regards to the origins and legal features of the O.I.V., and the meaning of the "arrangement" as founding document, see Duffort (1968).
Old and New Worlds: the Global Challenges of Rural History | International Conference, Lisbon, ISCTE-IUL, 27-30 January 2016 from official wine analysis to the understanding of appellations, were thus developed through the O.I.V., with the explicit aim of reducing transaction costs and encouraging trade. The leadership of French politicians and bureaucrats proved a major factor in its success25.
As it can be expected the benefits of the collective action reflected in the existence of the O.I.V.
were not distributed in an equal way. It dedicated hundreds of pages of its monthly publication to review policies to handle overproduction, rejecting firmly competition via prices and emphasising the necessity of quality and supply controls to multiply consumption: obviously a path in which France had clear interests. Cooperation among small viticulturists, self-regulation and state intervention were as well continuously demanded. Finally, with regards to appellations, the O.I.V. became one of the most active ambassadors of public controls. Apart from its promotion through its publications, it supported bilateral agreements and even channelled complaints on behalf of producers26. When international wine trade shrank after 1929 and pressures of a by then completely organised sector mounted in every European country, the O.I.V. was there to offer a wide menu of regulations and a very concrete model of appellations with the strong backing of the Quai d'Orsay.
5. Appellations after the 1929 crisis Between 1929 and 1935, the position of appellations changed drastically. Italy and Greece introduced a legislation of wine-types to be controlled by corporations of wine producers.
Hungary and Portugal altered their policy of protection of any wines produced within the areas of Port and Tokay to the general regulation of the wine production, both within and without regions with appellation. Spain and Switzerland which had constantly rejected any kind of legislation or international agreements that might endanger their production of Spanish cognac and champagne and Swiss champagne, changed completely their view. France, despite its constant role as ambassador of the natural interpretation of appellations, was in fact the last one to correct the internal legislation: finally, in 1935 it created the AOC (controlled appellations of origin), which were to be regulated by the Administration.
The general context for this twist of legislation was obviously the fall of prices of premium wines (with the exception of sherry), produced by the decrease of exports. The drop in consumption produced by the depression was aggravated by the protectionist measures and by the new taxes imposed on wine.
Table II. Exports of some special wines (thousands of hectolitres)
. Backing the hypothesis of Kindleberger (1982), pp. 22-23, on the importance of a leading state to ensure the international acceptance of standards.
. See the proceedings of the sessions of December 1928, in relation to the complaints against Peru for the existence of a Casa de Epernay selling "champagne", and in relation to the Franco-Portuguese agreement on appellations, in Bulletin International du Vin, February, 1929, nr. 9, pp. 68-77.
Old and New Worlds: the Global Challenges of Rural History | International Conference, Lisbon, ISCTE-IUL, 27-30 January 2016 * In bottles Source: Bulletin International du Vin, 1935 Lower prices were not prevented by appellations: furthermore, as they were organised in most countries, appellations fostered fraud and thus became a part of the problem and not the solution. In France, the vignerons from areas under appellation of origin tried to lower costs, multiplying the productivity, and shippers resorted more and more to the devaluated common wines for coupage: thus a law of appellations conceived as a weapon against frauds became a law in favour of lower quality and growing lack of uniformity27. Moreover, the Statute of Wine of 1931 excluded wines with appellation from the measures aiming at reducing the supply (compulsory stockage and distillation) and forbade noble labels such as "Château", "Clos", "Terroir" and the like for common wines. More and more wine-growers decided to sell their wines under appellations: in 1931 a 17 % of wine sold belonged to this category, in 1934 the amount reached 21 %28. A new and stricter regulation of appellations was the outcome of the process: in 1935 the AOC (appellation d'origine controlée) were created. They basically followed the pattern of the 1927 Law: controlled appellations meant guaranteed origin plus “traditional” good practices, with the very relevant difference that what traditional good practices implied was to be defined and controlled by administrative institutions. Who was to control quality (organised corporations or the state) was in fact the last problem controlled appellations had to overcome in France before they were embodied into the legislation. Its complete success had already taken place in the Wine Conference of Paris, in 1932, organised by the O.I.V. and the French Ministry of Agriculture, that endorsed the naturalist or French model of appellations and asked for a new international agreement in this field.
In Portugal, legislation was hardened as well. The good moment of Port came to an end after 1931 and the Douro was hit hard. That year a new general law was passed. It summarised and updated the existing legislation and created a wine bureaucracy, crowned by the Conselho Superior da Vitivinicultura, and nine wine regions, with a state viticulture and wine centre in each of them, plus a council of viticulturists and a state model adega (winery) in each district with appellation29. These public wineries were directed towards the establishment of wine-types, which could then be produced in a non-experimental way and sold abroad. In the mid-run these wineries, once they had fulfilled their duty of spreading new quality regional wines, were expected to become cooperative production centres without any public intervention. Two years later, in 1933, the first appellation of the country received a special organisation with the establishment of the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, a public institution where representatives of viticulturists and wine-producers sat together with public servants, and the Grémio dos Exportadores, compulsory association of wine shippers: they were expected to introduce "discipline" in the production and external trade of Port. Chemical and organoleptic tests became compulsory in the case of Port in order to achieve the stamp of guarantee, a measure that would be applied to other appellations in due course30.
The recommendations of the Wine Conference of 1932 with regards to appellations had been already adopted, or were adopted in the following years, in Greece, Romania, Italy and Spain. All. See on this question the report by M.J. Capus, one of the leaders of the vitivinicultural group of deputies, under the title "Protection des appellations d'origine", in Bulletin Internationale du Vin, April, 1935, nr. 83, pp. 27-37.
. Roudié (1988), p. 283.
. Freire (2010).
. Martins (1990) includes a very useful chronology of wine legislation in Portugal. For more details, see the legislation published in Bulletin International du Vin.
Old and New Worlds: the Global Challenges of Rural History | International Conference, Lisbon, ISCTE-IUL, 27-30 January 2016 these countries regulated appellations in the 1930s introducing different controls and under different supervisory authorities. Even the Spanish struggle against the French model of appellations was put to an end, as we shall see in the next section. This broadening European consensus about the meaning of wine appellations forced those who rejected the curtailment of their market position to fight other battles (internal rules of appellations, power in wine institutions, ways open to elude or break the regulations...). The new lines of confrontation in the wine question were the obvious result of the generalisation of appellations. A second fact must be born in mind: legislation on this question was not any longer thought of solely as a means to protect existing famous names through the establishment of quality requirements. Both in the pioneer countries (France, Portugal and Hungary) and in the ones who accepted appellations in the 1930s, they were considered as well an instrument to create quality wine types and promote them under new or existing names. It was clearly the Italian case in 1930, but it was as well that of the Spanish Wine Statute of 1932, of the Greek Law of 1932... Finally we should not forget that appellations were not but a concrete instrument of regulation of the wine sector, where many diverse institutionalised pressure groups had come into existence from the phylloxera onwards. Winegrowers, wine-producers, wine exporters and other industrialists and traders were organised and had shaped diverse agendas: in a time of rising corporatism, wine more than any other agricultural product offered a fertile soil for the introduction of corporatist formulae of regulation31. Appellations of origin were a powerful means to re-structure the wine world, although not the most far-reaching one.