Wine Word of the Week: “Vin de Pays”!

This week’s Wine Word of the Week is Vin de Pays and was suggested by Meiers Tambeau of Atlanta, GA. Thanks for the suggestion, Meiers!

Vin de Pays, or “country wine” in French, is one of the levels of the French wine classification system. It was created in 1973 and finalized in 1979 with the goal of creating a classification which recognized and encouraged the production of wines superior to basic vin de table wines while also acknowledging the wine’s regional identity. Vin de pays is one level above Vin de Table (table wine) but below Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and is the French national equivalent of the Europe-wide IGP or Indication Géographique Protégée (Protected Geographical Region).

For a wine to qualify as Vin de Pays it must conform to the standards of the classification and meet certain criteria. The wine cannot be blended, it must be produced in limited quantities, it must be made of certain specified grape varieties, it must reach a certain minimum alcoholic strength, it must come from a specified geographic region and it must be submitted to and approved by a tasting panel. The Vin de Pays classification benefits both producers and consumers in that it gives the consumers clarity regarding the wine’s provenance and it allows producers the opportunity to produce wines outside the strict constraints of the traditional AOC laws. Perhaps the most significant to consumers here in the US is that wines classified as Vin de Pays are permitted to label the wine according to the grape variety. This allows consumers the opportunity to purchase a French wine labeled with a grape variety they are probably familiar with such as Chardonnay, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Vin de Pays classification is further subdivided into three levels of geographic specificity. The top regional level has six divisions which roughly correspond to existing wine regions. These include: Vin De Pays du Jardin de la France (Loire); Vin De Pays de L’Atlantique (Bordeaux, Dordogne, Charentais); Vin de Pays du Comte Tolosan (South-West); Vin De Pays d’Oc (Languedoc-Roussillon); Vin De Pays Portes de Mediterranee (Provence and Corsica); and Vin De Pays des Comtes Rhodaniens (Rhone Valley, Beaujolais, and Savoie). The Languedoc-Roussillon produces more than three-quarters of all Vin de Pays wine and in 2006, it made five times more Vin de Pays than AOC wine produced that year.

About 80% of Vin de Pays wines are red, while white and rosé make up the balance. All of these wines are produced from 300 pre-approved grape varieties which are comprised mostly of International varieties (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Under the 2009 changes, a Vin De Pays grape variety must comprise at least 85% of the stated variety on the label; where two varieties are stated on the label, they must constitute the full 100% of the blend.

Thanks again for your suggestion, Meiers, and I hope that helps! If you (yes, YOU) would like to suggest a word for our Wine Word of the Week segment, please leave it in the comment section below or on our Facebook Fan Page which you can access by clicking here. If we use your word, your name will be entered into our monthly drawing to win one month of The Wine Atelier’s “Explorateur” Wine Club but remember – you have to play to win so make your suggestion now!