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Thinking about French wine

It is the Tour de France and what a start it made on the beautiful roads of the Yorkshire Dales!  I was at Kidstones (take a look at this photo!) or the Cote du Cray as it was named for the Tour, I had a delicious bottle of Gamay Chautagne Jacques Maillet 2010 from the Savoie with me.  The soft fruit, fresh palate and easy drinkability was perfect for quenching a thirst when spending 3 hours sat on a road side.

In celebration of the Le Grand Depart, we also had a tasting of French wines at our shop the week before and the wines went down very well and everyone was surprised by the great prices.  So why is it that French wine has lost favour amongst so many UK wine drinkers over the last 20 years?

Well, the rise of the New World has a lot to do with it.  Australia, South America, the US and South Africa burst onto the wine scene with bottles of single varietal wine which were easy to understand, very fruity, soft in tannins and drinkable without food.  People began to understand for the first time what they were drinking, 'i like Merlot, i love oaky Chardonnay, they would confidently claim!'  This was a revelation because up until then the confusing place names on French wine bottles like Rasteau, Gaillac, Cotes de Provence and Vine du Pays de l'Herault were not only very tricky to say but meant nothing to most of us.  Not only that but structured earthy reds from the Southwest and searingly dry crispy whites with aromas of grass from the Loire are not always so easy to drink for the occasional slurper.  The New World made wine understandable and also very easy to drink without food.

But....

France is coming back!  The Tour de France is embracing the UK and French wine producers are rebelling are against age old traditions which have alienated so many consumers.  French wine has never been so good and so accessible!

In truth I have always been a Francophile. I travelled in the Alps as a teenager, learning the language whilst searching for work in a Ski resort (never found!).  It led to a degree in the Language and lifelong love for the diversity and authenticity of quality French wine.  I say quality because there is still plenty of mediocre wine out there but the decline of the Cooperative winery and the revolution of small artisans producing wine using natural methods means that now, there is so much superb French wine out there, you can keep tasting and drinking for years and discover only a fraction.  They have also learned a little bit from the New World and some of the previously mysterious Vin de Pays now boast the variety on the label.

What can still be a minefield is the appellation system but there is controversy about that at the moment as well.

Next month Decanter magazine are publishing an article (read it here)  about how some of the best small producers are pulling out of the AOP- appellation d'origine protegee - (what was AOC or appellation controlee) because it actually prevents them from making authentic wine in a natural and sustainable way.  They are labelling high quality and in some cases expensive wines as simple Vin de France.  Henri Milan (i do his delicious wines from Provence) says, 'i want to be free to make authentic wine, i want to label my wines as Vin de France Libre!'

Many of these great quality producers are making wines that are far better than their neighbour's wine made under the AOP and it is in these lowly 'Vin de France' that you will find fantastic authentic wine and fantastic value for money to rival anything the New World has to offer.

So here are a few great little French gems to try from Buon Vino, some of which are Vin de France recommended in Decanter as wines you must try!

  1. Cotes de Gascogne Cuvee Jean Paul Tannat Rose 2013 £6.25
  2. Vin de Pays d'Oc Grenache Noir Pasquiers 2012 £6.95
  3. Vin de Pays d'Oc Nordoc Chardonnay 2013 £7.85
  4. Vin de Pays d'Oc Merlot Pech Matelles 2012 Organic £8.50
  5. Vine de France La Mariole old Vine Carignan 2012 Biodynamic, low sulphur £14.95
  6. Vin de France Sans Chichi Merlot/Malbec Maisonneuve 2008/09 Biodynamic, low sulphur £15.95

We are doing a mixed case in the shop of these 6 wines as an entry to the new France for £58.00 plus loyalty discount.  We will also be tasting these wines free of charge in the shop on the last weekend of the Tour de France from Friday 8th - Sun 10th August.  Would love to see you down here!

Best Wishes

Rob