Wines labeled as such can state the producer, vintage and grape variety, but that is all.
Usually, when people think of labels that are not region-specific, lower-quality wine comes to mind. And, in the case of vin de France, there certainly is a lot of that. However, some of the best wines made in the Loire Valley, Languedoc, Roussillon and other French regions are labeled as VdF.
Appellation d’origine controlee (AOC) wines, or as they are now called, appellation d’origine protegee (AOP), are regulated by local boards that determine which grapes are allowed, the geographical parameter of the appellation and even the typicity of the wines.
This last element, which is the characteristic of a wine that makes it typical for a region, has alienated a lot of producers who make wines that do not conform to the current norm.
There have also been changes in some of the AOPs where grapes that were once permitted no longer are, causing producers who work with said fruit to use a different label, hence vin de France.
How do you, as a consumer, know which vin de France wines are not your average swill, but are actually finely crafted wines? It is confusing. The most reliable way to know is to ask at a wine shop or do some Internet research.
In the meantime, here are a few to seek out. Reminder, while I am including the region of origin, you will not see it on the label.
Domaine de l’Ecu, Rednoz, VdF, 2012 (Loire Valley, France): Domaine de l’Ecu is a Muscadet producer, and a very good one at that. However, this biodynamic estate also makes a little red wine that is not covered by the AOP. Rednoz is made entirely from cabernet sauvignon and fermented and aged in stainless steel. A lighter, brighter style of cab than what many in California may be used to, it still resembles the grape that is so loved, with notes of cassis, raspberries and a hint of bittersweet chocolate. Suggested retail: $18
Texier Rouletabulle, VdF, 2012 (Rhone Valley, France): This is a sparkling wine made from chasselas, which is widely planted in Switzerland and the Alsace region of France, but is still rather rare in the Rhone Valley, where Texier is one of the leading producers. It is gentle on the palate, with minerals, peach pit and subtle floral overtones. Fairly low in alcohol, it makes a great sipper going into the spring. Suggested retail: $25
Domaine Rimbert, “Carignator,” 2010 (Languedoc, France): Rimbert makes superb wines in Saint Chinian. Unfortunately, as this wine is composed entirely of carignan, it does not meet the AOP requirement so it flies its flag as vin de France. Made from an 80-year-old carignan vineyard, it has good intensity but is not heavy-handed and offers a very good expression of the grape and its terroir. Suggested retail : $28
These wines can be found at Arlequin Wine Merchant, Bi-Rite Grocery and Ruby Wines.
Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com.