The Range of French Wine
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Regulating French Wine
Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC)
Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure (VDQS)
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Reading a French Wine Label
The Wine Trade In France
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The Essentials Of France
Vins de Pays Zones
Vin de Pays Regulations
The Future of Vins de Pays

These wines represent some 15% of French production and form a sepa-rate group within the larger category of vins de table, but they have more in common with AOC wines. They come from specific places, and are made according to quite strict rules.

Their growth has been rapid, and accords with the philosophy of diver-sity which underlies French wine officialdom: there is no absolute pyramid of quality- rather there are separate and parallel ways to regulate wine, of which vins de pays is one.

The AOC is the senior system, but that does not place the newest, vins de pays, automatically at the bot-tom of the pile. One of the virtues of the vin de pays system is that it allows growers to use grape varieties that AOCs forbid because they are not locally traditional. In many parts of the country the AOCs and vin de pays zones overlap, and the latter allow experiments.

Chardonnay vines are, for exam-ple, not listed in the Muscadet AOC rules and are therefore forbidden. But the vin de pays zone of the Loire Val-ley (Jardin de la France) allows sev-eral grapes not traditional to the region. Thus a Muscadet grower can use some land to experiment with Chardonnay and sell the wine under the vin de pays label.

Similar experiments have brought Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to the Midi; Viognier, the cherished northern Rhone white grape, to vine-yards farther south; and the ubiqui-tous Chardonnay has spread from its Burgundy heartland to more or less everywhere. On the other hand, vins de pays can permit the use of varieties, which the appellation d origine controlee rejects on quality grounds.

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