Wed 18 Jun 2014

What’s So Special About Vin de France?


Once upon a time, there were no appellations, let alone the hierarchy of labelling possibilities that exist today, and these have been changing subtly over the years.

Vineyards in Limoux

Vineyards in Limoux

The term appellation controlée is very gradually being superseded by appellation d’origine protégée or AOP for short. The now obsolete term VDQS has all but disappeared and wines like Saint-Bris, Moselle and Saint-Mont have all been elevated to full appellation status.

At one time, anything not of appellation contrôlée level was merely labelled vin de table, then as a way of improving quality and encouraging innovation a new vin de pays category was created. This allowed for an indication of provenance and at the same time offered producers more flexibility in the grape varieties that could be used and size of yields which were less restrictive than for appellation-level wines.

Vin de pays has been incredibly successful and the model has been copied elsewhere, in Italy and Spain. The same Europe-wide legislation that meant a change of name for AOC wines applies to vin de pays too and from the 2010 vintage this category is officially called IGP, or indication géographique protégée (though the term vin de pays is still permitted and often used on labels).

At the more prosaic level, the term vin de table was never very satisfactory; it gave producers little scope to individualise these wines and carried rather negative connotations for consumers. Now that has changed with the creation of vin de France which with one fell swoop replaces vin de table.

So what is the difference?
Vin de France still cannot give any idea of provenance other than being French but it opens up the potential for some creative cross-border blending and inventive use of unusual varieties. Now grape variety can appear on the label or even grape varieties if more than one is used, and the choice of varieties are now more or less without limit.

The Stop Gap Chardonnay

The Stop Gap Chardonnay

Domaine de l’Arjolle’s zinfandel from the Languedoc (£13.50) is a good example, as is a new Limoux pinot noir bottled by Jacques Dépagneux (£5.95). Perhaps more importantly, vin de France wines can display vintage, especially important for white wines where freshness is key. Our Stop Gap Chardonnay (£6.50) is a perfect example of what can be achieved: it is 100% chardonnay from the 2013 vintage but with part of the blend IGP wine from the Languedoc and the other part appellation wine from Beaujolais. When we wanted to source a wine for members to fill the gap left by a shortfall in white Burgundy when yields were so low, it seemed like the most sensible option.

Another recently listed wine which takes advantage of this new category and which has already proved popular with members is the Duo Des Deux Mers Sauvignon-Viognier (£6.25). The two seas in question here are the Atlantic and Mediterranean, combining as it does fruity fresh sauvignon from Gascony with ripe soft Languedoc viognier.

Most vin de France wines are priced at entry level, but by no means all. A fine if eccentric example is the so called historical 19th century blend from Château Palmer – 85% Margaux merlot and cabernet and 15% syrah from the Rhône Valley. Though I doubt the grands crus will be rushing to take advantage of the new vin de France category, the possibilities for everyday drinking wines are endless!

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer


  1. Melville Jones says:

    At last, the French have realised that at the bottom of the pile, at entry level, they have the ability to make wines that should be the match, or even better, than the rest of the world. AC regulations have stopped innovation that can make really good and relatively inexpensive wines, but outwith the regs. Now they can!

    Melville Jones
    Suris, Charente , France

  2. Mike Bolton says:

    I have tried the Stop Gap Chardonnay and find it to be fantastic value. I will now be trying other Vin de France wines for everyday drinking. Well done the French.

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