|The hottest trend in wines? Lesser known appellations of France! When you venture outside its world-famous regions, you’ll discover some of the coolest wines available, for prices hard to beat. Not burdened by the rigid regulations of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone — where winemaking techniques have been honed to world-class finesse ever since the Roman invasion 2,000 years ago — nor limited by the colder climates of the Loire, Champagne and Alsace regions — where terroir and tradition dictate specific products like bubbly or riesling — the lesser known appellations of France have started to offer wines of superb quality. So it’s no wonder that more and more are appearing on retail shelves.To fully appreciate the wines of the six lesser-known regions we’re about to discuss, let’s first talk about the way the French differentiate between their AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controllee) wines and wines labeled Vins de Pays, which is a relatively new and highly successful category of “country wines.” Tied to detailed traditions and techniques, AOC wines are under strict government control and come from specific zones. They always demand the highest prices. Ideally they’re of the highest quality. Up until 1982, however, winegrowers outside an AOC designated area had no identity. They resigned themselves to anonymous bulk-and-blend production, especially in the warm Mediterranean. Loosely defined by grape varieties and locale, the Vins de Pays category meant to change this image by giving winemakers an incentive to create wines proud of an origin.
The plan is working. Vins de Pays winemakers have seized the opportunity with a passion. There are now more than 140 names using the Vins de Pays label, with the great majority coming from the Midi. The wines are almost always worth trying and offer the best value for money.
Let’s look at some of the lesser-known wine regions of France and consider both AOC wines and Vins de Pays.
An extra word about Languedoc: On its limestone plains freedom reigns. Its 700,000 vineyard acres — twice the size of California’s wine area — have ideal growing conditions. A dreamlike environment and modern techniques are resulting in some of the world’s best wines for the price. Watch for Languedoc wines, for it’s here that winemakers are playing with unequaled potential. And a note of warning: labels, right now, reflect the exuberant exploration with every possible style in print. Hang in there for a while.
If You Want…
Sparkling/slightly sparkling – Jura, Savoie
So that’s it. Some of the lesser-known appellations of France. Cool wines, free from the pompous ratings and reviews, and tasting so unbelievably good.
Lesser Known Appellations of France