If you told a wine lover, wine critic or wine importer that they could only drink the wines of one country for the rest of their life, most – almost certainly – would choose France.
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France is a big country, with correspondingly huge variations in geography and climate. From sea to mountains and cool and damp to hot and sunny, with pretty much every permutation of wind, temperature, humidity and soil type in between that you care to think of.
All of which makes it amazing for wine. Grapes reflect the places where they grow, so the more variation you have in topography and weather, the more different styles of wine you’re able to make.
The creation of the Vin De France wine category is such a fantastic addition to France’s wine offering.
Essentially, for a wine to be classified as a Vin De France, it needs to come from grapes that have been grown and made into wine in France. That’s it… It means that winemakers can mix the same grape variety from different regions. Or they can come up with unusual blends of grapes from different appellations in the same part of the country. There’s more flexibility when it comes to winemaking techniques. And they can do more or less what they like with the label, too.
Since it came in in 2009 the Vin De France category has exploded – and no wonder. It’s added a real energy and excitement to France’s wine offering, giving wine lovers something that they just didn’t have before.
South vs North
With Vin De France wines, it’s possible to create this, by blending your fresh, zesty aromatic ‘cool vintage’ North of France Sauvignon Blanc with a warmer, rounder, more tropical expression from the sun-filled south. And, having brought different characteristics together to create a style that you like, you can happily label the wine ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ so the wine buying public get an idea what it might taste like.
Because they can come from anywhere within France, your favourite Vin De France wines will be consistent from one year to the next.
Equally, if you were a winemaker, you might decide that you’d like to venture out of making a pure Sauvignon Blanc altogether and mix it with something else.
Vin de France expands the possibilities. Suppose you wanted to mix your Cabernet Sauvignon not with its Merlot, but with Syrah from the other side of the country? Or imagine you wanted to try a blend of Cabernet Franc with Grenache and a bit of Malbec.
Vin de France wines allow winemakers to (metaphorically) trot around the country picking styles and varieties at will.
And France, as we explained earlier, has a LOT of variety to choose from. It must be like being a chef and being given access to a vast store cupboard of ingredients.
It’s a bit like an artist who has only ever painted still-life scenes being told they can try their hand at impressionism, cartoons and Jackson Pollock craziness. Maybe even mix them all together if they want. For winemakers who are used to working in one particular region or concentrating on making a certain style of wine, Vin de France wines must be stimulating indeed.
It’s one of the reasons why Vin De France wines have an undeniable air of fun to it; of being let off the leash; of ‘trying things out’.
Meet the locals
Yet there’s a further advantage to Vin de France wines as well. It is giving a new lease of life to less well-known local grape varieties. The kind of grapes that used to be bye-passed but are turning out to be super-interesting ‘extra’ elements in unusual blends.
Vin de France wines, in other words are the best of both worlds. They make French Quality accessible. They bring the French savoir-faire but with an excellent price quality ratio; they’re seriously made wines that don’t take themselves too seriously; and they’re different while still being familiar.
They come with centuries of experience rather than a weight of tradition. And perhaps, best of all, they’re fun!