Vin de France advances ‘French revolution’

Results from the 2014 Best Value Vin de France International Selection have highlighted the increasing consistency and creativity to emerge from the Vin de France wine classification.

logo_anivin_vertical-573x640With medal awards capped at 30% of this year’s 290 entries, 13 wines won a gold medal and 74 received silver.

Among the gold medal winners were many of the same producers as last year, including a number of France’s largest wine exporters. Their repeat success indicates that these companies have embraced the classification’s brand building opportunity for achieving a consistent style, even in challenging years such as 2013, by blending across different regions and varieties.

Meanwhile the silver medal winners illustrated a far more diverse picture. Although the Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay which have performed well in previous years retained their strong position in 2014, there was a marked increase in the number of varietal blends across both red and white categories.

Merlot broke into gold medal ranks for first time with a strong performance at silver level too. Likewise a number of French Malbecs also featured for the first time, including a new own label example for Tesco. In addition, this year saw rosé improve its performance, winning 10 medals.

“We have great companies playing in the Vin de France category and some of the best here are in the export markets,” summed up Valérie Pajotin, director of ANIVIN de France, which organised the blind tasting competition.

Since it began five years ago, the competition has evolved from a UK-based event judged exclusively by UK buyers into a process which saw 22 buyers from 10 key markets gather in Paris to taste 290 wines.

“We’re really trying to have as many great, exclusively buyers as possible,” said Pajotin. “It’s very important to get their feeling about the wines and for them to tell us if they fit consumers in their market.

Having overcome a legislative hurdle in the US which until the end of 2012 prevented Vin de France classified wines from showing the vintage of their labels, ANIVIN is now pushing hard to develop this market.

Outlining a plan to visit buyers in a number of major cities around the US this year, Pajotin highlighted the strength of Vin de France’s commercial proposition for this market in particular. “We’re right in the heart of the market at $10-15 where most of the sales are made,” she remarked, noting that this strong price positioning replicated itself in other important French export markets.

Despite the commercial importance of this price bracket, Pajotin suggested that until the introduction of a Vin de France tier, the country had struggled to achieve strong representation in this key area since many IGP or AOP wines fall into more expensive brackets.

Referring to the doors opened by this Vin de France tier as “the French revolution”, she insisted: “We really need to succeed; it is France’s success that is in the balance with this category.”

Pajotin also highlighted the ever increasing diversity and creativity being shown by producers as they begin to feel more confident with the freedom offered by Vin de France. “At the beginning it was only mono-varietal wines but year after year you can see winemakers understanding that the asset of this category is to be able to blend between regions,” she observed. “There are a lot of wines with a little bit of Muscat in this year; last year was the first time we saw a little bit of Gros Manseng.”

What’s more Pajotin noted the greater ease with which producers can now blend to ensure a consistent style, thereby helping to build a stronger brand. “They can decide a wine profile for a certain market and can make the same wine for their consumers from January to December,” she remarked. “The consumer respects that.”

Following the competition, the medal winning wines become what Pajotin described as “brand ambassadors” for the Vin de France category, being used for the array of consumer and trade tastings scheduled around the world for 2014.

This activity will include a stand at ProWein next month, where the medal winners will appear together for the first time. ANIVIN also plans to extend its trade tastings in China into “Tier 2” cities this year. “China grew 14% for us compared to 2012, reported Pajotin as she emphasised the “great opportunity” for Vin de France in this market, saying: “They need to understand wine there and grape variety is a good reference point for the consumer.”

As for the more mature UK market, Pajotin confirmed that the approach here would have a greater weighting towards consumers rather than trade, with gondola-end displays in retail outlets a major focus. “It’s a key factor as we can’t organise tastings in the stores so it’s really important to make sure the wines stand out,” she explained.

A full report on the ANIVIN de France tasting and results will appear in March’s issue of the drinks business.

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