Beaujolais winemakers want to lose plonk image

Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:28am EDT
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By Catherine Lagrange

ODENAS, France (Reuters) - Makers of vintage wine from France's Beaujolais region have launched a campaign to improve their image and step out of the shadow of Beaujolais Nouveau for which the area is best known.

The hilly winegrowing area in eastern France is famous around the world for its Beaujolais Nouveau, a young red wine of varying quality which goes on sale in the third week of November and is meant to be consumed by the following May.

But a handful of winemakers producing top-of-the-range wine want to shake off the region's reputation for poor quality.

"Our problem is that we have 10 quality vintages which are unheard of. We are the only appellation in the world known for plonk and not for its top quality," said Jean Bourjade, president of the local trade body.

"We have the image of an industrial wine, but actually it's the other way round, everything is made by hand here."

He was speaking on Friday at the Chateau de la Chaize which is owned by the Marquise de Roussy de Sales who produces one of the most refined Beaujolais wines.

The 17th century chateau, which hosted former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary in 1996, was where the winemakers launched their "Expressions of Origin" to raise their vintages' profiles.

They will organize three top-end wine tastings a year, in France, Europe and one big export market. In 2009 this will be in the eastern United States with stops in New York, Philadelphia and Florida.   Continued...