Abstract: Standardizing French Wine in an Age of Global Competition

Elizabeth Heath


This paper examines the initiatives of a coalition of southern French winemakers, the Confédération générale des vignerons (CGV), to manage the economic threats posed by global integration and foreign competition in the early twentieth century. It will discus how, in the aftermath of phylloxera and the ensuing wine crisis, meridional vignerons sought to defend French wine production from outside competition, namely wine from colonial Algeria, by codifying authentic wine production standards. The work of the CGV helped to generate new ideas of French wine as a cultural commodity and to institute regulations and legislation to standardize French wine production. These efforts, I argue, were foundational for developing aspects of the French wine industry that we now take for granted, namely the AOC system and emphasis on terroir as a distinguishing feature of French production.