Duo des Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier 2013, France
As a wine producing country, France is - or was - somewhat hidebound by extremely strict legislation that controlled every aspect of winemaking in its regions. These laws, known as Appellation Contrôlée, decreed exactly what grapes could be grown, when those grapes could be harvested, which grapes could be blended together, and so on. In one way this has been a great strength, creating classic styles of wine like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, but as worldwide competition grew through the latter half of the 20th century, it limited ambitious winemakers who wanted to try something different.
The response was the creation of a whole new classification system known as 'Vin de Pays'. Wines labelled as Vin de Pays could come from territory just outside classic regions, or indeed from within the boundaries of the classic regions if the winemaker chose to effectively 'demote' them from Appelation Contrôlée status, and could be made from a much wider palette of grapes, blends and wine styles. This effectively revolutionised the French wine industry in the 1970s and 80s, especially in areas like the Languedoc in southern France, where sales of modern Vin de Pays wines rocketed.
But in 2010 an even more open classification was introduced that basically said "anything goes," allowing French winemakers to make more or less any style of wine they wanted to, even blending grapes that would normally be grown in different regions together. This lovely little example of a Vin de France is a blend of the Rhône Valley's Viognier with the Loire Valley's Sauvignon Blanc, to create a crisp but full-flavoured and exuberant wine. The aromas are explosive, melding Sauvignon punchiness with Viognier's apricot richness, whilst the palate also marries the latter's textural weight and former's cleansing line of acidity really succesfully. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas. £6.25, The Wine Society.