IT MAY seem standard today, but before the Vin de France wine classification was created in 2009, cross-regional French wine blends couldn’t feature the grape variety or vintage on the front label. So while producers could source wine from across the country, they had to sacrifice the benefit of being able to list its contents, which was particularly frustrating when it was a popular grape such as Sauvignon Blanc. However, with the new French wine classification, Vin de France winemakers can enjoy the benefits of blending wines from different climes and selling the results by grape variety, while clearly stating the source country: France. And hence, complexity and consistency can be allied to commerciality. In essence, Vin de France supports Albert Einstein’s belief that: “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Vin de France
winemakers can enjoy the benefits of blending wines from different climes and selling the results by grape variety
But why would French wine producers want to blend wines from different regions? There are several reasons, but among the most important is the consistency it brings in terms of quantity and quality and, as a result, price. This in particular benefits high-volume French wine brands, which are designed to bring consumers a regular, dependable taste and retailers an even volume and cost. As for the need to clearly communicate the grape variety alongside the brand, it is well known that major wine importing countries such as the UK, Scandinavia and the US look to the grape as a stylistic cue. Indeed, research by the Wilson Drinks Report (WDR) has shown that the grape variety is actually more important in shoppers’ decision-making than either
the country of origin or brand. The company has shown that 9% of consumers decide on what wine to buy according to the grape, while 6% choose wine according to the country of origin. And the impact of this added freedom for French wine producers is already being felt. For instance, Vincent Peyre, oenologist at UCCOAR (Union des Caves Coopératives de l’Ouest Audois et du Razès), records the impact of switching to the Vin de France category for the Brise de France brand. “We went to Vin de France to blend our whites from different regions, and we now blend Chardonnay from the Loire Valley with Chardonnay from the Languedoc. As a result, in 2011 we sold 25% more bottles of Brise de France than the year before. Before the switch, we only bought wine from the Languedoc.” Overall, the take-up of Vin de France has been impressive. In its launch year of 2010, 350,000 hectolitres of wine came under the classification from 428 companies. Last year this had grown to 750,000hl from 664 companies, and ANIVIN de France, the French trade organisation for Vin de France, expects to hit 1 million hl of wine sold using the new name this year, reaching its target. Further, Valérie Pajotin, director of ANIVIN de France, points out the new classification’s potential as the home of cutting-edge French wines. “It gives producers the chance to launch something fashionable, so we should be the category of innovation,” she says. Further, as part of the new category
creation, ANIVIN de France decided to run a competition for the wines using the Vin de France classification, called the Best Value Vin de France International Selection.
This event, first staged in early 2010, is designed to reward quality and, like the category, has grown considerably since its launch, proving the credibility of the competition, which is headed by the Union des Oenologues de France (UOEF), a professional body with wide experience in organising international competitions. In February 2012, the third year of the tasting, the drinks business took part in the competition, which was held in Paris with a truly international jury – panellists came from China and Japan, as well as Canada
History: Vin de France
Vin de France was created in 2009 as a new French wine classification for wines without geographical indication. The wines are allowed to state the grape variety/varieties and the vintage on the front label, and the new category is designed to give traditional French brands and companies in all regions of France the opportunity to most effectively promote their products and blend across regions. Vin de France represents a simplification of the French offer and focuses on wine brands, while highlighting the taste profile of the wines by allowing varietal labelling, as well as clearly showing the country of origin – France.
and northern and southern Europe. This year’s competition had 12 gold, 32 silver and 29 bronze medals awarded from the 242 entries, a significant increase on 2011’s event, when 46 wines were selected from 124 submissions, which in turn was a step up from the inaugural competition, when 27 wines were awarded medals. Comments from the judges can be read over the following pages, but the tasters were impressed by
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