Vin de France
Vin de France, previously known as ‘Vin de Table’, is thought of as the lowest level of wines produced in France. While this may be true for the majority there are a number of excellent examples that are produced at a range of price levels.
It covers wines produced in France either from outside an appellation region or one that does not follow the set appellation rules. An appellation is quite simply a set of rules that govern a wines style, region and how it is made. The system must be followed by everyone if they wish to use the name of the appellation on the label. The majority of these, often stringent, regulations are to protect the wines’ quality. Common examples are maximum yields, varieties and grape ripeness levels, but some more strict appellations govern down to pruning and trellising techniques. This is where Vin de France can offer an exciting alternative to those who want to experiment with the wines they produce.
In general Vin de France is made in two styles. Cheap and basic, the lowest end of wine production within France and this style dominates the Vin de France category.
The second is from exciting, experimental winemakers who wish to break the rules. This is often due to planting different varieties that aren’t allowed in their appellation.
It can be difficult to find good Vin de France wines, especially in the UK. Key information to look out for is the vintage and the variety on the label, (not previously permitted for Vin de Table).
Top red and white examples.
Produced in the St-Émilion area of Bordeaux from the outstanding winemaker Benoit Trocard. Benoit was the first to plant a small area of Chardonnay in Bordeaux and the resounding opinion was that it wouldn’t work. Chardonnay isn’t a permitted grape variety in Bordeaux and under even stricter St-Émilion rules only red wine can be produced. This means the wonderful Dubreuil Chardonnay must be labelled as Vin de France.
It’s an incredibly powerful wine with rich flavours of pastry, peach and floral blossom and a finish that keeps on giving. Only a small number of cases are produced in good years at a premium price. It is a brilliant example of an outstanding white wine that doesn’t conform to St-Émilion, Bordeaux or the common opinion of Vin de France.
Maison Ventenac – Paul from the range ‘Dissenters’
Accurately called ‘Dissenters’ meaning a person who rejects, objects or protests this range of wines does exactly that.
Maison Ventenac is situated in Cabardès, an appellation in the Languedoc. This unusual appellation requires its wines to be blended from both Mediterranean (Grenache and Syrah) and Atlantic varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc). While this isn’t a typical set of rules it does enable producers to make brilliant and age-worthy wines. The ‘Dissenters’ range, however, uses only one grape variety in each wine and therefore must be bottled under Vin de France. La cuvée Paul, one of the finest wines in the range, is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. The production is focused on using winemaking only to enhance the character already found in the grapes. Half of the Cabernet Franc is aged using terracotta amphoras and half in very large old oak barrels. Neither method is designed to impart any flavour to the wine and only to harmonise the flavours already present. It results in a wine that is rich tannin and acidity with concentrated mint and blackcurrant flavours and will develop brilliantly with age.
Want to hear more about the brilliant Bordeaux winemakers breaking the rules, listen here on the Delicious Magazine podcast: