French Vin de Pays/Pays IGP wine labels explained

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There are hundreds of bottles across France sporting either Vin de Pays or Pays IGP on their labels. This is the category in waiting – below the renowned AC (appellation controllee) – and a step up from the humble Vin de France (or VSIG).

So firstly, why do we now see the words Vin de Pays and Pays IGP on labels for this category? IGP is the new European term meaning ‘indication geographique protegee,’ introduced in 2009 to be used alongside or instead of Vin de Pays on labels.

Pays IGP undoubtedly offers us the best value wines in France. Many are extremely well-made and originate from lesser-known up-and-coming terroirs. One of the main reasons for this is that wine growers enjoy a similar sort of freedom that we find in the New World – to explore new terroirs and grapes – without the shackles and constraints that come with the elevated AC demonination. Some 300 grape varieties are permitted for Pays IGPs.

Labels can get complicated as Pays IGP is also divided into regions (eg Bordeaux, Loire), into departments (eg Herault) and lastly into zones – of which there are 93 allowed to use the zone name on labels – over half of which are in Languedoc (eg des Alpilles).

Languedoc Roussillon is by far the biggest area of Pays IGP in France – covering 100,000 hectares and producing three quarters of Pays IGP wines. With a similar size to South Africa or Chile’s entire vineyard area, the 20,000 southern French vine growers in Languedoc Roussillon can offer us a vast repertoire of Pays d’Oc IGP styles.

No surprises that over half of my top ten are from Pays d’Oc IGP with many coming from this year’s collection of premium Pays d’Oc wines selected in a blind tasting competition.

WHITE

DOMAINE PAUL MAS VERMENTINO 2013

(£8.99, Majestic Wine)

Alcohol 13 per cent

If you have not tried a vermentino – this excellent Pays d’Oc example is the one to start with. It’s a grape popular in Languedoc, Provence and Sardinia, where it is often called rolle and ends up lost in blends. This pure vermentino example has rose petals, pear skins and light citrus fruits mingling with an enticing minerally verve. If you normally serve sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio as your aperitif, try this crisp, unoaked bargain. STAR BUY

CALMEL & JOSEPH VILLA BLANCHE CHARDONNAY 2013

(£10.99, Vinos, Edinburgh; Ellies Cellars, Dollar; De Burgh Wines, Edinburgh)

Alcohol 13 per cent

There are heaps of Pays d’Oc chardonnays out there, but this screw-capped wonder from the Villa Blanche is worth a second look. You get very poised citric fruits, fleshy mouthfeel, balanced acid and long length of flavour for your money. STAR BUY

DOMAINE RIVES-BLANQUES CHARDONNAY/CHENIN BLANC 2013

(£8.99, Tanners, 
www.tanners-wines.co.uk)

Alcohol 13 per cent

Owners Jan and Caryl Panman worked across four continents before arriving in Limoux. High altitude vineyards give crisp natural acidity – this chardonnay/chenin blend has pear and honey notes with a creamy palate: good value for the price.

DOMAINE LA JASSE CASTEL BLANC L’EGRISEE 2012

(£12.50, The Wine Society, 
www.thewinesociety.com)

Alcohol 14 per cent

Herby citric and dry with a mouth-filling richness, for those who like big whites. Grenache blanc is partnered here with carignan blanc, designed to give it lift.

RED

VIN DE PAYS DE L’ARDECHE GAMAY 2013

(£5.49, Marks & Spencer)

Alcohol 12 per cent

For those who like a good Beaujolais – this is the same grape grown on the granite soils of the northern Rhône. Love the raspberry scents, crunchy red fruits, medium bodied soft elegance and adore the price.

DOMAINE DE MONTVAL SYRAH 2013

(£6.66, Majestic Wine)

Alcohol 13 per cent

Astoundingly good value. It is not that typical of syrah – it tastes more like a very soft Côtes du Rhône – but I gather there is no grenache sneaking in the blend, it is pure juicy syrah. Expect sweet wood smoke scents, luscious fruits and a hint of underlying garrigue herbiness. Just so moreish. STAR VALUE

PIERRICK HARANG WINE CUVÉE BALTHAZAR SYRAH 2011

(£11.49, Waitrose)

Alcohol 14 per cent

This beauty hails from Minervois’ La Liviniere, where the brown schist soils give a very earthy, crunchy, minerally feel to the wine. Winemaker Harang has used a touch of Beaujolais’ carbonic maceration technique to enhance fruits and soften the syrah. Still, deep, and inky with crystallised violet flavours. Bring out the steaks.

LES VIGNOBLES FONCALIEU LE VERSANT PINOT NOIR 2013

(£9.49, Fine Wines Direct; Hennings Wine)

Alcohol 12 per cent

From the oldest co-operative in France. Foncalieu wines are extremely well made – and this soft, liquorice-toned pinot is a good example.

MAS CHAMPANT VIN DE PAYS D’OC 2011

(£9.95, The Wine Society)

Alcohol 14 per cent

Very appealing blend of cabernet franc and syrah from a top estate in St Chinian. I often struggle with St Chinian wines as they can be quite austere, but this is a great introduction to their best wines.

DOMAINE DE CLOVALLON LES POMAREDES PINOT NOIR 2013

(£17.95, Terroir Languedoc, www.terroirlanguedoc.co.uk; La Garrigue restaurant, Edinburgh)

Alcohol 12.5 per cent

I am a big fan of Domaine de Clovallon’s wines run by Catherine Roque, who gave up her architect’s practice to focus on tending her old vines on the edge of Faugeres in Languedoc. Her very low yields give her rich, concentrated pinot very enticing morello cherry flavours and spicy undertones. As she is outside the local appellation (AC), she can experiment with other interesting grapes such as the white petit manseng.

• Join Rose’s Beginners wine tasting classes at 28 Queen Street in Edinburgh from £36, www.rosemurraybrown.com

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