Don't Call It A Malbec: Europe Sours On British Winery's Plan | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Don't Call It A Malbec: Europe Sours On British Winery's Plan

A British winemaker has finally been given official approval to release a limited-edition wine made in collaboration with Malbec grape growers in Argentina, on one condition: It can't sell the wine, or label it a Malbec. Actually, it can't even call it wine at all.

The Chapel Down winery's only option for getting rid of its wine is to give it away as a sample, calling it a "fruit-derived alcoholic beverage from produce sourced outside the EU."

That's the ruling from the European Union, which is strict about how its member countries can produce and label wine. The regulations seek to protect wineries and grape growers from an influx of cheap grapes from foreign sources — which might then be labeled as "produced in Europe," and priced below the native competition. A Spectator blog post details those concerns.

The EU decision thwarted exhaustive preparations by Chapel Down for a wine it calls "An English Salute," with a release date that was supposed to coincide with this year's World Malbec Day.

At the end of last year's harvest, some 4,600 pounds of fresh Malbec grapes were flown from Argentina to the Chapel Down facility in Kent, England, where they were fermented and aged for nine months in American oak barrels.

The grapes came from vineyards near Mendoza, Argentina, owned by the Gaucho Restaurant Group. The restaurant had planned to sell the wine in its Argentine-style steakhouses in Britain. Instead, Chapel Down is stuck with more than 1,000 bottles of unsaleable wine.

The conflict first came to light last month, when the EU told Chapel Down that its efforts to make a Malbec were poorly conceived.

The Drinks Business site had this reaction from CEO Frazer Thompson, after he was told his plans had gone sour:

"'Because the grapes were grown outside of the EU but the wine was made at Chapel Down we have run into a problem,' said an exasperated Thompson."

"...'The wine is sensational but we now have 1,100 bottles which are illegal to label or sell as either Malbec or wine.'"

"'It's ridiculous,' said Thompson. 'We could make a beer in Kent with American hops or a vodka with Russian grain, but when it comes to wine different rules clearly apply which doesn't make sense at all.'"

Over at the Wine Anorak site, a reviewer who tasted the wine calls it "sweet, aromatic, fresh cherry and berry fruits nose, with hints of sweet wild herbs. The palate is fresh and a bit peppery, with sweet berry fruits and some herby notes. Midweight and expressive, this is a joyful, pretty wine: Beaujolais meets the Languedoc!"

In Britain, the clash over the "fruit derived alcoholic beverage" is the latest in a string of disagreements with the EU. Earlier this month some Brits were angered by the group's decision to ban "de-sinewed meat."

And to the press, the failed Malbec collaboration also represents a lost chance to put the names "Britain" and "Argentina" in headlines that didn't recount the ongoing dispute over the Falkland Islands. The 30th anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the islands came earlier this month, complete with the airing of past grievances.

But that was not to be, as the European Commission seems to have viewed the Argentinian collaboration with Chapel Down as a possible Trojan Horse scheme, in which a friendly subterfuge might open the floodgates for an overwhelming army of powerfully juicy grapes.

On its website, Chapel Down seems to be trying to make the best of things.

"This is a chance for fans of English and Argentinian wine to get their hands on something that is genuinely unique," CEO Thompson is quoted as saying. The site notes, "It will, quite literally, be impossible to buy."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Capital Fringe Fest's 'Bethesda' Hits Close To Home

The annual Capital Fringe Festival, which aims to bring new energy and artists to the D.C. area performing arts community, is back. This year's program includes one play that hits close to home.
NPR

Economists Say Inflation Is Tame; Consumers Aren't Buying It

On paper, inflation has been low this year. But consumers buying food or fuel may disagree. Prices for beef, eggs, fresh fruit and many other foods are much higher than overall inflation.
NPR

Administration Officials Defend Funding Request To Stem Border Crisis

President Obama has asked for $3.7 billion to deal with the southern border crisis. There are predictions the number of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. could reach 90,000 by October.
NPR

NSA Implementing Fix To Prevent Snowden-Like Security Breach

A year after Edward Snowden's digital heist, the NSA's chief technology officer says steps have been taken to stop future incidents. But he says there's no way for the NSA to be entirely secure.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.