French fraud office in rosé brand battle

27 August, 2008
Page 5 
Arguments between winemakers over a new rosé wine brand in Provence have forced France's national fraud office to intervene.

Provence's largest AOC union, Côtes de Provence, has accused local firm PGA Domaines of "stealing" the region's name for its new Rosé de Provence wine. Rules prevent wine brands in France from using any part of an existing AOC name.

The feud is the latest example of a power struggle between France's wine appellations and a new wave of brands, as the sector battles to regain ground in foreign markets.

Quarrelling over the PGA Domaines brand became so bad that French fraud police, more accustomed to handling high-level corruption cases, were called in to investigate the dispute earlier this year.

They have since sided with PGA Domaines, but lawyers for Côtes de Provence remain on standby to sue the group if France's national appellation body, INAO, refuses to accept the Rosé de Provence brand.

James de Roany, head of PGA Domaines, told Drinks International: "If INAO was not to agree on our brand, we will not stop using it."

Surging rosé wine sales in the key UK market have heightened competitive tension in Provence, where 80 per cent of wine produced is rosé, according to union figures.

De Roany said he would have no problem with other regional wineries printing "rosé de Provence" on their labels to simplify their offering for foreign consumers.

" Provence rosé wines are far too weak in export markets and that they are not profiting enough from the boom in this category of wines," he said.

"Provence producers claim that they are the 'world leading rosé producers', but this is not true if they only export 10 per cent of their production."

Plans to launch Rosé de Provence in the UK are under way, and de Roany said feedback from distributors had been very positive.

But Marc Rolley, head of Côtes de Provence, said he was determined to stop the brand. "We have to respect the consumer and it seems to us that this brand is not being very honest with consumers," he said.

"The appellations AOC de Provence or Rosé de Provence do not exist and have never existed, but this brand suggests they do."

Many see the dispute as part of a long-running debate over the creation of one regional AOC to cover the whole of Provence. The Côtes de Provence union has traditionally opposed this, because it fears losing power.

But some of Rolley's colleagues have openly supported PGA Domaines in internet chat rooms . So too have other AOCs in Provence. And DI now understands that Côtes de Provence may compromise by allowing all regional wine firms to use "rosé de provence" on labels in export markets.

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