Anthony Rose: 'Vin de France is a new affordable category that makes it easier for French wine to compete with the New World'

In the dead of a German winter, three English wine writers sat round a table in an Italian restaurant discussing French wine. The start of a joke? Actually it was the end of one, the punchline being the French authorities' refusal to allow its more humble wines to use the name of their grape variety. A new French wine category, Vin de France, was born last year and we were being asked to road-test it with a group of German colleagues in order to make a selection for June's Vinexpo, the giant wine fair in Bordeaux.

In essence, Vin de France is a catch-all category incorporating vin de table and producers of vins de pays who don't want to be tied down by geographical boundaries. It allows the name of the grape variety on the label, previously a no-no for vin de table under French law. It also gives producers the flexibility to blend wines from different regions. In short, it creates a new affordable wine category that makes it easier for French wine to compete with the New World.

Choc horreur? Well yes and no. Coinciding with the mid-summer day tasting, Le Monde published an article by Laetitia van Eeckhout calling the new flexibility "a cultural revolution in French wine". Vin de France's director, Valérie Pajotin, explained that, by chucking the old rulebook in the bin and being able to communicate taste through grape variety to new consumers, "we at last have the tools to compete on a level playing field with the big boys of the New World".

Vin de France is clearly an opportunity for bigger wine producers to create multi-regional brands. Take the sauvignon trophy winner, for instance, François Lurton's 2010 Le Fumé Blanc, around £8.50, Butlers Wine Cellar (01273 698724), Bouquet Wines (020-7221 6081). This smoky, elderflower-scented and zestily gooseberryish dry white blends wines from the Languedoc and the south-west; or Vindivin's Chante-Clair NV, £5.99, Laithwaites (laithwaites.co.uk) the trophy red-blend winner, which combines succulent red berry fruitiness in a southern French blend of carignan, syrah and grenache.

Yet, while our selection was dominated by big companies, there were plenty of small growers involved, because they too see the opportunity to create an eye-catching package saying "French wine". Among them, Katie Jones, who started making wine in the Roussillon last year, won the grenache trophy for her moreishly drinkable, mulberry and red fruits-flavoured 2009 Jones Rouge, £95 for six bottles, domainejones.com, also Dudley & de Fleury Wines (020 7036 9696). Mark Hoddy was another, a winemaker who created two wines for Laithwaites that respectively won the oaked chardonnay and vermentino trophies. The 2009 La Voûte, £11.99 as part of a mixed case, Laithwaites, is a rich, barrel-fermented chardonnay based on a blend of five different vineyards around the Atlantic-influenced area of Limoux. The latter, the 2010 Un Vent de Folie, £14.99, Laithwaites, is a subtle, oak-influenced interpretation of the refreshing Mediterranean grape.

But not everyone is over the moon about the new category, despite its obvious benefits. Entrenched views from the vin de pays and appellation sectors suggested in the Le Monde article that Vin de France could undermine their efforts to sell French tradition and its focus on terroir. Take the politics out and there's no earthly reason why there shouldn't be an entente cordiale between the two.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions