Buyers for wine merchants and supermarkets are increasingly turning to these lesser-known regions for their supplies, and the growers are only too keen to provide quality wine at affordable prices. Overall, the average harvest is about 7,600 million litres.
Classification for French wine
AC (or AOC): Appellation Contrôlée (or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée): the highest quality category. There about 400 ACs producing about 2,100 million litres of wine a year – about 28-29 per cent of France’s total production. Just under a third is exported. Each AC covers a specific region, where the wine is produced, and regulations dictate grape varieties grown, how they are cultivated, yields to be harvested, wine making techniques and alcoholic strength, While the AC will does not necessarily guarantee its quality.
VDQS: Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure: ‘Apprentice’ AC wines, which have to comply with the same regulations although yields can be higher and alcoholic strength lower. Most VDQS wines are striving for AC status and many have already achieved it, which is why production is just a little over 1 per cent of total wine production in France. About a fifth of all VDQS wine is exported.
Vin de Pays: These wines account for between 12 and 14 per cent of total production and about 10 per cent is exported. The classification was introduced to persuade growers to raise standards, and the wines are often referred to as ‘French Country Wines’. There are three sub-categories specifying where the wine comes from – a local region (Vins de Pays de Zone) – often the best; a Départament (Vins de Pays Départementaux); or more than one Département (Vin de Pays Régionaux).
Vin de Table wines account for almost half of France’s total production. Also known as vins ordinaires, they are everyday drinking wines. About 12 per cent is exported and although quality varies enornously there are great bargains to be found.