Students and drinkers of Generations X and Y know by experience the complexity – at times confusion – of EU law with regards to education and wine. At the turn of the 21st century, while the Bologna Process made wholesale changes to academic qualifications across Europe, EU Regulation No. 1151/2012 ushered in new regimes governing wine classification, namely the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication).
As is the case most EU regulation, it is for member-states to give effect via national legislation. In the case of France, the newly created IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) and AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) are now equivalent to its traditional VdP (Vin de Pays; not to be confused with Germany’s Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter) and AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) respectively. IGPs/VdPs are usually more flexible in terms of requirements – and indeed geographically larger – than AOPs/AOCs.
France currently has about 150 IGPs/VdPs, the majority of which are situated in southern half of the country. France has six massive regional IGPs/VdPs, including Jardin de la France (northwest), l’Atlantique (central-west), Comté-Tolosan (southwest), d’Oc (central-south), Comtés Rhodaniens (southeast) and Portes de Méditerranée (Provence and Corsica). Of the country’s 100 or so départements, just over half have their eponymous IGPs/VdPs.
Situated on the west bank of the Rhône less than 100km away from the Mediterranean coast, the Ardèche département is entitled to produce wine under three labels: Coteaux-de-l’Ardèche IGP/VdP, Côtes-du-Rhône AOP/AOC and Côtes-du-Vivarais AOP/AOC. Geographically, Coteaux-de-l’Ardèche is between Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône; in fact, Cornas, Saint-Joseph, and Saint-Peray are all located within the boundaries of the Ardèche département. Coteaux-de-l’Ardèche IGP/VdP is hence climatically very similar to Rhône in general, and also in terms of varieties used.
Viticulture and winemaking have existed in Ardèche since Roman times. Of particular interest is its indigenous variety Chatus, which has been grown since time immemorial, and was listed as one of the 38 principal French varieties by early modern scientist Oliver de Serres in his Théâtre d’Agriculture (Theatre of Agriculture) in 1600. A vigorous vine requires much labour, Chatus was decimated and largely replaced by more popular varieties after the phylloxera plague in the late 19th century.
Domaine du Grangeon is one of the leading producers of Chatus. The proprietor-winemaker Christophe Reynouard, having honed his skills as the cellar master of Domaine Georges Vernay, is now leading the revival of this time capsule of a variety. Meanwhile, his other single-varietal gems, mostly of traditional Rhône varieties, are equally impressive.
A single-varietal Viognier from Coteaux-de-l’Ardèche IGP. Radiant citrine with shimmering golden reflex, the perfumed nose offers apricot, lychee, green papaya, balsam and lemon blossom. With rounded acidity and clean minerality, the redolent palate delivers peach, fig, coconut, sweet ginger and almond. Medium-full bodied at 13.5%, the compose entry evolves into an intense mid-palate, leading to a saturated finish.
A single-varietal Chatus from Coteaux-de-l’Ardèche IGP. Rich garnet with carmine-purple rim, the aromatic nose furnishes black cherry, plum, cocoa, balsam and sous bois. With abundant acidity, tasty tannins and structured minerality, the potent palate provides damson, prune, bay leaf, nut meg and black pepper. Medium-bodied at 13%, the poised entry continues through a complex mid-palate, leading to a long finish.
A single-varietal Syrah from Coteaux-de-l’Ardèche IGP. Bright garnet with cardinal-crimson rim, the fragrant nose presents raspberry, pomegranate, cinnamon, black pepper and geranium. With ample acidity, ripe tannins and clear minerality, the spicy palate supplies plum, black olive, liquorice, black tea and fresh earth. Medium-bodied at 12.5%, the tangy entry carries onto a silky mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish.
A single-varietal Gamay vin de paille from Coteaux-de-l’Ardèche IGP. Dark garnet with carmine-rosewood rim, the flora nose effuses dried raspberry, cassis jam, bouquet garni and rose petal. With succulent acidity, juicy tannins and underlying minerality, the seductive palate emanates dried blackberry, cherry confit, potpourri and lavender tisane. Fully sweet and full-bodied at 14%, the charming entry persists through a vibrant mid-palate, leading to an endearing finish.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages