We have commented on the problems of too much poor quality Bordeaux wine over the year, but at last there may be some movement which could help both consumers and producers.
In many regions of France the “Vin de Pays” (country wine) appellation has proved very successful – e.g. Vin de Pays d’Oc from the Languedoc, and Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne from Gascony.
But in Bordeaux there has never been a lower classification than full AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controllee) – probably because the Bordelais were too proud to have their wine classed as anything less. As a consequence, poor or excess vintages either had to be sold off cheap (but still under the Bordeaux AC), sent for distillation or blended into a very humble Vin de Table.
But with this new category becoming available “Vin de Pays de l’Atlantique” there is the prospect of some good, interesting and great value wine coming from the region.
For the Vin de Pays tag does not necessarily imply sub-standard wine that does not qualify for full AOC status.It allows winemakers to make a wine with fewer restrictions on grape variety and blend, on pruning and yield etc – so it is perfectly possible to make a much better wine if the vigneron is not straightjacketed into trying to produce the traditional Bordeaux using traditional standards. Certainly in the Languedoc and elsewhere this has led to experimentation and some excellent wines, which in some cases fetch a higher price than the traditional AC wines.
The new classification does not just include Bordeaux, but also the departements of Gironde, Dordogne, Charente, Charente-Maritime and part of the Lot-et-Garonne. Although the blends will be predominantly the traditional Bordeaux grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot for reds, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites, other varieties are being allowed in some areas – e.g. Syrah (seldom seen in South West France), Cinsault, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.
There are a couple of existing Vin de Pays appellations in the area – e.g. Vin de Pays de la Dordogne and Vin de Pays Charentais, and presumably these will be retained – although I suspect they will effectively disappear if the new Atlantique label is successful and is marketed well.
So from the 2006 vintage you should start seeing some interesting new wines and labels – although I suspect it may be a few years until the really successful experimentation is evident.