Help the French
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
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YOU MIGHT have read recently in the press about concerns
being expressed by the French about the worldwide sales of their wines.
, while they have held up comparatively well in restaurants,
their share of the now all-important supermarket business has been savaged by
the wines of Australia
South Africa .
It seems that the historic appellation contrôlée (a.c.) system,
a classification based on traditional wines made from traditional grapes in the
traditional way, has proved unintelligible to the average consumer.
What he or she is looking for is a simple label, saying from
which grape the wine is made, thus giving some clue about the final taste.
So far in France, the idea of actually mentioning a grape
variety on a label is perceived to be a heresy, permitted only in Alsace (on
the fringes of French civilisation) and for the humble vins de pays, which were
originally conceived as a means of draining the wine-lake of basic table wine.
The first idea to spring from the fertile brain of René
Renou, a grower from the
who currently leads the French wine
trade, was to raise the status of about half the a.c. wines to a new position
of super a.c.
This proved a mighty joke for wine importers around the
world, and no laughing matter for those growers whose standing would
effectively be lowered by not being among those being raised. I have the
feeling that we will hear little more of this scheme.
The second idea is more from the
if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em school. For the first time, the two prestige
regions of Bordeaux and
will be able to produce vin de pays; so an unappealing Bordeaux Rouge can now
dress itself up in the glad rags of a Vin de Pays de la Gironde Cabernet
Sauvignon. Merlot or a Bourgogne Blanc may be turned into a Vin de Pays de la
Côte d’Or Chardonnay.
Even more daring is the suggestion that, in future,
producers can use oak chips to impart flavour to the wine.
Previously, this was expressly forbidden, except on an
experimental basis. Indeed, anyone discovered following this decadent but
cost-effective practice ran the risk of vinous excommunication. (While it might
have been forbidden, I am told that it was widely used in
I think these moves will do little to increase the sales of
French wine, though there are many good reasons for the faithful to stick with
Here are some that I have recently enjoyed: Grange de Segure
Fitou 2002, a full-bodied soft red from the south, which you should be able to
find in Sainsbury’s until 15 September, reduced from £6.99 to £4.49.
For those who are keen on knowing the grape varieties, this is a
blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. Also on offer there are J. P. Chenet’s
Cabernet Syrah 2003 (reduced from £3.89 to £2.99). Don’t be put off by the
bizarrely shaped bottle; this wine recently saw me through a party.
Tesco has recently launched a range of wines under the Tesco
Finest label, including an excellent Chablis 1er cru at £9.97. If there is an
Indian summer, one of my favourite rosés is Majestic’s Château des Sours,
Bordeaux 2002 at £7.47. I am also a big fan of its soft but spicy Rhône wine,
La Vieille Ferme Côtes de Ventoux 2001 at £4.99.
It seems as if
needs all the help we can offer.