Gary Bates, Majestic Wine Marketing Manager, introduces the consumerfriendly wine category that’s freeing French producers to create exciting new blends – and give their creations the billing they deserve…

When is a duck not a duck? When it’s a fish. As any aficionado of Indian food will tell you, the main ingredient of Bombay Duck is not a freshwater-floating feathered fowl, but rather a sea fish with an altogether different flavour. So go by the name alone, and you may be in for a surprise when the dish arrives.

And so it is with many French wines: the label just doesn’t tell the full story. In this, the most prolific and diverse of all the wine-producing nations, the passion for tradition and terroir has led to strict laws protecting the use of classic regional appellations. The downside? All wines not conforming to the fixed criteria were, in the past, swept into the distinctly unglamorous Vin de Table category, with no mention of vintage, region or variety on the label, and thus no indication of the taste (or quality) of the stuff in the bottle.

But no longer. As of the 2009 vintage, the new Vin de France category gives winemakers licence to create unique blends, to label them proudly as vintage wines and to publicise the constituent grape varieties, opening up the all-too-often mysterious world of French wines for the casual wine lover. Additionally, it unlocks the potential of inter-region blending: producers can source the best grapes from across a number of regions, making wines of improved quality and consistency.

So if you’re looking for value, now it’s easier and more pleasurable than ever to look past the familiar brands, and opt for an unusual French wine. Here are three top Vin de France picks to start you off.

Cuvée Geneviéve Rouge 2009, Vin de France
50% Grenache from Languedoc, 25% Grenache and 25% Carignan from Aude. The nose is dominated by the Grenache’s summery strawberry fruit, while the palate is a supple mix of juicy plum and damson flavours.

Cuvée Geneviéve Blanc 2009, Vin de France
30% Ugni Blanc and 30% Colombard from Gers, 25% Melon and 15% Sauvignon from the Loire. Delicately aromatic, blending notes of citrus and flowers on the nose. A crisp palate offers lemon, pineapple and a refreshing, dry finish.

La Grille Pinot Noir Rosé 2009/10, Vin de France
£6.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles
100% Pinot Noir, from various vineyards in the foothills of the Massif Central. Soft, light and subtle, with delicate strawberry, raspberry and redcurrant fruit, and mouth-watering acidity.

*Prices valid until 29 August 2011

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