What does Vin de France really mean?

Up until 2014, the lovely wines of Jean-Philippe Padié from Calce in the Roussillon were designated Appellation Cotes du Roussillon in 2014. From 2015, Padié’s wines all became designated Vin de France. Naturally, a friend asked why so.

It’s a good question. And indeed, my friend could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Padié’s wines had suffered some dip in quality resulting in their demotion in the classification system.

Yet, nothing could be further from the reality. Padié’s wines had evolved so far in quality – defined by us as transparency, purity and softness of all the elements that make wine, the fruit character, the alcohol, acids, tannins, the weight and mouthfeel – as to taste quite different from mainstream Roussillon. Thus they began to regularly fail the test to be accepted for Appellation status.

In order to “earn” the Appellation status, the test basically comprises a taste test, which is as much to promote as to protect the Appellation. And it necessarily serves as many masters as possible, in particular the most important (or biggest) producers, the Cooperative and largest estates. The taste test thus tends to adopt a lowest common denominator approach in which wines have to taste “typical” according to what most producers are making these days, which isn’t terribly different from 20 years ago.

For the average producer (most of them) the Appellation is what sells the wine whether it’s Saumur-Champigny or Beaujolais-Villages or Vacqueyras or Corbières.

But for the producer who aspires to make the most interesting, most qualitative wine, what sells is not his Appellation but his craft. In other words the discerning buyer looks at who makes the wine rather than the Appellation.

Today’s artisanal producers have pushed quality far ahead in the last ten years, particularly with the rise and rise of natural wine (not saying that natural wine itself is necessarily always the most qualitative but that the movement itself has galvanised artisan production). Many wines have evolved far beyond the mass market homogeneity of the “average” Appellation wine.

Vin de France used to be known as Vin de Table, a kind of lowest of the low, a designation for what could be anything from anywhere that didn’t make Vin de Pays or Appellation Controlée. And it usually was lowest of the low, without any indication where it came from, what it was made from, who made it, or even when (year of production or vintage wasn’t even permitted on the bottle), although the why was obvious, to make something cheap for mass market sales supermarkets, no explanation offered or required.

But as artisan producer’s wines started to taste different from the mainstream and were denied Appellation status they started to systematically apply the Vin de France status to their wines instead, knowing (or hoping) that their clients would understand. It’s frustrating for wine buyers looking to check boxes with lists based on Appellations but some of the best lists are regional and divided into Appellation, IGP (Indication Geography Protected, formerly Vin de Pays) or Vin de France (VDF).

There also happens to be less paperwork, and thus it’s cheaper, to apply for VDF status.

Today in my own database I put the region in brackets after VDF, thus VDF (Roussillon) or VDF (Rhône). This helps me and my clients understand where the wine comes from. In Spain this is even more necessary since the vast majority of wines we work with are designated Vino de España – although since many of our wines come from independent-minded regions like Catalonia and Galicia we don’t even find the words Vino de España on the label, just Vino!

Once upon a time, the Appellation system, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, was originally designed to simply designate and guarantee the provenance of wine, which came with a basic set of rules about permitted varieties, farming and winemaking methods. Little by little the rules developed to control the blend, permitted new “famous” grapes and denied obscure but indigenous grapes, and to control the method of farming and the method of winemaking. The goal was never to control the taste – after all, once upon a time, these grapes, farmed thus, and made in the traditional way, would taste a certain way, with some producers, as ever, doing a better job than others within all the parameters and others merely journeymanning. But today’s Appellation rules, particularly outside the most well-defined region in the world, Burgundy, has come to serve the taste of the mass market.

Whether in Bandol, or Corbières, or Côtes du Rhône artisan producers of superb wines of terroir are forbidden by Appellation laws from making wines from 100% the grape that defines the region, be it Mourvèdre in Bandol, or Grenache Noir in the Côtes du Rhône. Thus the wines of Philippe Badea, rich, classic Southern Rhône wines are designated Vin de France rather than Côtes du Rhône simply because they’re all 100% Grenache Noir!

We highly recommend Vin de France or just Vino (from Spain)!

アペラシオンとVin de France

“VIn de France “ラベルのワインはその品質がアペラシオンワインに比べて安くて劣るものなのか?
2015年、我々が日本に紹介をしているルーションのJean-Philippe PadiéのワインがそれまでのアペラシオンCotes du RoussillonからVin de France に変更になりました。
Vin de Franceは以前のVin de Tableに変わるものです。いわゆる階級下でテーブルワインであり産地、生産場所、品種、ヴィンテージなど基本的に何も明記をする必要はありません。(フランス産であれば)元々は明らかに一般市場のスーパーマーケット向けの安価なものがターゲットでした。
この理由からPadieが15年からこのVin de Franceに変更したことは質が落ちたように思われる一般の方もいらっしゃったはずです。



しかし我々の興味をそそり、飲んでみたい!かつ質の高いワインを目指す生産者が売りたいのはアペラシオンではなく彼自身の作品なのです。 皆さんのようなプロフェッショナルの方々はアペラシオンやブランドではなく誰が作っているのかを注意深くみているはずですしそれを見極めるのが我々の仕事だと思っています。


アルティザン生産者のワインがメインストリームのものとは異なりPadieのようにアペラシオンに拒否をされるなどし、(または元々アペラシオンに興味もない人もいますが)彼らは順次Vin de Franceに移行をし始めました。そしてそれを新たな市場は見逃しませんでした。もはやナチュラルワインの世界ではVin de France の表記で自由な表現をしてワインを作る方が当たり前のようになっています。 昨今は地方を超えてブレンドをしたり白ぶどう、黒ぶどうのブレンドや醸造方法など多岐に渡ります。
Vin de Franceを名乗る他の主な理由としてはアペラシオンに定められた品種以外の品種を使用している、アペラシオン域外の産地のものをブレンドしている、アペラシオンルールに沿った醸造方法以外の方法で作っている、などが挙げられます。

ただし、注意しなければならないのはVin de Franceだからとは言え、産地や品種の個性も見失っているワインが残念ながら存在することです。

(余談ですがボルドーの新品種にアルバリーニョ やトゥリガ・ナショナルなどの品種がアペラシオンボルドーのブレンド品種として認められています。。 病害などの問題を避けるためとは言え。。。。という感じですが。、、)


スペインもフランス同様でアペラシオンに囚われない生産者も多いのでVino de Espanaと名乗る生産者がほとんどです。さらには単なるVINO のみの表記のワインもありますが・・・

次回はここ数日アメリカを中心に何かと話題になっているナチュラルワインの”クリーン”という表現についてすぐに書きたいと思います。 キャメロン・ディアスのワインは日本にも入っているのかな・・・・