Happy Europe Day!
Thanks to the European institutions, regulations and standards established, we can enjoy many European products that we´ve come to value. For example, did you know that the EU is responsible for certifying the quality of wine, amongst other products, by ensuring and protecting their origin throughout Europe? Through the strict legal European Quality Certification standards, the EU guarantees quality and authenticity of any European wine bearing a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
The origin of any wine is essential to quality, as terroir affects wine, but it is particularly important for the Garnacha/Grenache grape due to it´s sensitivity. It thrives in the European birthplace regions of France’s Roussillon and Spain’s Catalayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano, and Terra Alta. The hot, windy, dry climate, poor, well-drained soils, extremely low yields, and decades-old vines of these regions create Garnacha wines with concentration, minerality, and a sense of birthplace. Accurate and authentic origin ensured by the EU PDO and PGI certifications is essential to the quality of Grenache.
While many individual European countries enacted protected wine origin and quality systems throughout the 20th century, in November 2012, the EU created a framework to regulate and elevate these standards throughout Europe. There are different types ordered by strongest link to the place where the product was made: PDO guarantees that every part of the production, processing, and preparation process must take place in the specific region. For wines, this means that the grapes have to come exclusively from the geographical area where the wine is made. PGI guarantees that at least one of the stages of production, processing, or preparation takes place in the region. In the case of wine, this means that at least 85 percent of the grapes used have to come exclusively from the geographical area where the wine is actually made. In each country these European quality standards and schemes are referred to in different ways; for example in Spain the PDO level is referred to as Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP), while in France it is Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP). In Spain, the PGI is called Indicación Geográfica Protegida (IGP), while in French it is Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP).
The PDOs and PGIs that Garnacha/Grenache calls home have long histories of quality wine production. Of Spain’s key Garnacha regions, Cariñena was the first to receive PDO/DO status in 1932, just six years after Spain’s protected wine origin system was created. Terra Alta followed in 1972, with Campo de Borja in 1980, Somontano in 1984, and Calatayud in 1989. The Roussillon region of France, just across the border, has 14 PDOs/AOCs and three PGIs/IGPs for Grenache, making around two-thirds of the production at the PDO level. Three of these appellations were among the first to receive AOP status in 1936, just after the system was created: Banyuls, Maury, and Rivesaltes, all for Vin Doux Naturels produced from the Garnacha/Grenache grape. Others followed throughout the century, such as Collioure in 1971 and Côtes du Roussillon in 1977.
With the EU PDO and PGI quality schemes we, as consumers, can be guaranteed and certain that we are going to enjoy fantastic, terroir-driven European quality wines. So on Europe Day, raise a glass to PDOs and PGIs!