Chimbarongo, Chile - Chilean wine producers are toasting a victory in the battle of emerging wines versus old favourites from the Old Continent: a sponsorship deal with the Tour de France, the most famous bike race in the world.
While Chilean producers say it's a sign their country is increasingly prominent in the world of wine, French producers have called the situation “intolerable”.
The Amaury Sport Organisation, which organises the Tour de France, reached a sponsorship deal in 2014 with the Southern Cone vineyard in Chile to promote its Bicicleta wines, a name that means “bicycle” in Spanish.
French producers apparently failed to notice the deal last year, perhaps because French law bars promotion of alcohol during sporting events. That means billboards for the Chilean wine appear only along stages of the race in Spain, Andorra and Switzerland.
They were outraged when they finally realised a foreign wine would get a spotlight during the European country's signature sporting event, which begins in July.
“We feel humiliated,” Frederic Rouanet, wine co-operative president in Aude, in southern France, said in a statement last month. “This situation is intolerable.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Adolfo Hurtado, general manager of the Chilean vineyard, declined to comment on the controversy, but defended his wine as a good value.
“The relationship between cost and quality in Bicicleta is very, very good,” said Hurtado, noting that a bottle of red wine costs about $3.70.
Attempting to ease tensions, Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, met with French producers earlier this month and said they could show their wines during guest gatherings at the start and at the end of the 21 stages. Such showings are allowed because they are not considered direct advertising.
The Chilean vineyard is based in the Colchagua Valley, about 150km south of Santiago. It's named for the way many vineyard workers get to work: on their bicycles.
* Associated Press reporter Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report