A new country wine category for the south west of France, Vin de Pays de l’Atlantique, will make its debut with the 2006 vintage.

Varietal wines and blends produced from the classic Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and others will be the first to appear but provision has been made for the use of other varieties.

What is allowed will be determined by département. Syrah will be permitted in the Dordogne and Lot et Garonne but not the Gironde which in turn will be allowed Chadonnay, Chenin Blanc and Cinsault.

Vin de Pays de l’Atlantique will cover the départements of the Charente, Charente Maritime, Dordogne, Gironde and certain communes in the Lot et Garonne.

‘It’s not a miracle solution to our difficulties, but it allows producers in the region greater flexibility and choice, and the option to experiment,’ said Allan Sichel, managing director of Bordeaux négociant Maison Sichel and a strong advocate of the project.

A new growers association, the Syndicat des Producteurs de Vins de Pays de l’Atlantique is drawing up guidelines on use of wood chips and other practices.

Yields have been set at a generous level – a maximum 85hl/ha clear wine for red and rosé and 90hl/ha for white. ‘This could lead to abuse but if the wine isn’t good enough it just won’t sell,’ Sichel warned.

Written by James Lawther