Vin de France: Free the winemaker

More and more high-flying producers are joining the Vin de France category as they rebel against strict appellation rules. Benjamin Lewin MW reports...

Lewin’s top 15 Vins de France

Domaine Couly-Dutheil, Blanc de Franc, Chinon NV
16.75/20pts (89/100pts)
Unusually, this sparkling wine is made from Cabernet Franc. Fresh but almost aromatic on palate, perfumed, floral and delicate, almost dry, elegant refreshing aperitif style.
Price: £11.50-£13.30 Christopher Keiller, The Good Wine Shop
Drink 2014-2015
Alc 12.5%

Domaine Henri Milan, La Carrée,Provence 2010
17.5/20pts (91/100pts)
This Roussanne has a mix of herbs and nuts, tarragon and spices, with savoury impressions of the garrigue. Rich, almost fat, on palate with fruit concentration and layers of flavour, complex but fresh and lively. The 2011 is more of a blockbuster.
Price: £48.90 (2011) Dynamic Vines
Drink 2014-2018
Alc 13.5%

Comte Abbatucci, General de la Revolution, Corsica 2011
17/20pts (90/100pts)
Soft, attractive mix of freshness and aromatics. Floral notes meld into white peaches and the flavourful palate has stone fruits merging into hints of the garrigue, deepening and integrating in a savoury direction with time.
Price: £49.77-£60 Dynamic Vines, Wine Bear
Drink 2014-2021
Alc 13%

Jean-Pierre Robinot, Les Vignes d’Ange Vin, Bistrologie, Touraine 2010
16.75/20pts (89/100pts)
Oxidative style shown by golden colour, with faint prickle on the rich, almost viscous palate. Lots of character, with apricot and grapefruit cut by herbal hints of tarragon, developing in glass to an increasingly complex blend of herbs and spices.
Price: £19.13 Roberson
Drink 2014-2016
Alc 12.5%

Ferme de la Sansonnière, La Lune, Anjou 2010

16.25/20pts (87/100pts)
Modern Chenin Blanc nose is savoury, nutty and waxy. Stone fruits of peaches and apricot kernels carry a touch of bitterness to counteract slight residual sweetness. Everything integrates into its own delicious style.
Price: £16.63-£21.83 (2011) Yapp Bros, Hedonism
Drink 2014-2018
Alc 13%

Zind-Humbrecht, Zind, Alsace 2010
16.25/20pts (87/100pts)
Perfumed nose leads into stone fruits on the palate with a touch of citrus – quite aromatic for the varieties. Residual sugar is a fraction above technically dry, and there’s a typically Alsacien play-off of sweetness against acidity. Lovely aperitif.
Price: £17.99-£19.28 Coe Vintners, Waitrose
Drink 2014-2016
Alc 13.1%

Turner-Pageot, La Rupture, 2011
16/20pts (86/100pts)
Sauvignon Blanc is betrayed on nose only by a faint herbal impression. Prolonged skin exposure has created an unusually fat palate – viscous rather than tight – with fruits of peaches and apricots rather than gooseberries. A different take on Sauvignon Blanc’s typicity.
Price: £17.50 (2012) Leon Stolarski
Drink 2014-2017
Alc 13.7%

Château Palmer, Historical XIX Century Wine, Margaux, Bordeaux 2007
18/20pts (93/100pts)
Driven by spicy and peppery deep black fruits, with blackcurrants breaking through the chocolatey and velvety texture, this seems more to resemble northern Rhône than Bordeaux until the tannins
kick in on the long finish. The 12% Syrah dominates the palate aromatically.
Price: £200 (2010) Berry Bros & Rudd, Top Selection
Drink 2014-2023
Alc 13%

Château Fontenil, Defi de Fontenil, Bordeaux 2005
17.75/20pts (92/100pts)
Soft palate has nutty overtones to rich black fruits and ripe tannins; vanillin from new oak is still too powerful, and needs time to settle. If Château Fontenil is a top Fronsac, Defi de Fontenil, although a Vin de France, might best express what Fronsac aspires to be, with greater warmth and aromatic complexity than Château Fontenil.
Price: £28 (2000) Fine & Rare
Drink 2015-2024
Alc 14%

Terre Inconnue, Léonie, Languedoc 2007
17/20pts (90/100pts)
Almost high-toned aromatics on the nose (unusually forceful for Carignan) lead into ripe black fruit palate with a good variety of flavours, along the lines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A full-force wine of the south, but showing precision to the fruits, and pure expression of the variety.
Price: £30.50 Dynamic Vines
Drink 2014-2018
Alc 15%

Causse Marines, 7 Souris, Gaillac 2008
17/20pts (90/100pts)
From 70-year-old Syrah vines, this makes a surprisingly nutty first impression. Elegant, refined black fruits are followed by a touch of heat on the finish. Fine-grained support from tea-like tannins still just evident. Freshness of Syrah is maintained by the lively acidity.
Price: £35.74-£38.80 Dynamic Vines, Wine Bear
Drink 2014-2020
Alc 14%

Domaine Ledogar, La Mariole Vignes Centennaires, Corbières 2011
16.5/20pts (88/100pts)
Finely delineated black cherries and plums convey precision. Southern origins are revealed by a touch of perfumed, high-toned, aromatics. There’s no trace of the characteristic flatness of Carignan. Its refinement would place this in the top ranks of Corbières.
Price: £14.95 Buon Vino, Dynamic Vines
Drink 2014-2020
Alc 13%

Domaine Richeaume, Columelle, Provence 2009

16.5/20pts (88/100pts)
Black fruits drive this Cabernet-Syrah blend. Freshness on palate cuts the ripeness. Although aromatics of Syrah dominate, the Cabernet brings a sense of restraint. Overall impression is fine grained and elegant, but drink relatively soon as the wine tends to rusticity with age.
Price: £21.11 (2011) Yapp Bros
Drink 2014-2018
Alc 14.1%

Cosse Maisonneuve, Sans Chichi, Cahors 2008
16.25/20pts (87/100pts)
This blend of Merlot (80%) with Malbec gives a black fruit impression of damsons nicely balanced against a herbal background. Fruits are fresh, yet round enough to show faint chocolate edge, with tannins still just evident. Overall it is more like a cru bourgeois from Bordeaux’s Left Bank than Right Bank Merlot.
Price: £16.10 Dynamic Vines
Drink 2014-2019
Alc 13%

Domaine Ganevat, Cuvée J’en Veux, Jura 2010
16/20pts (86/100pts)
This assemblage of 18 ancient indigenous varieties seems similar to Pinot Noir from the region, with light, faintly tarry, faintly spicy red fruits showing an edge of earthy strawberries supported by crisp acidity – very Juracien. Ganevat’s wines often need time in bottle to develop, so perhaps this will show better integration and elegance in time.
Price: £22.99 Smiling Grape
Drink 2014-2019
Alc 11%

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