Picture from the Independent
Francois Hollande is currently le Président de la République Française. He enjoys an approval rating of 13%. His illustrious title doesn’t seem to be doing him much good. People are judging him by what they see.
The 2012 vintage of Les Hauts de Pontet, Château Pontet Canet’s second label has just lost its AOC/AOP status. My guess is that the wine world will take the same view as French voters: their opinion of the wine and chateau will be unaffected by its supposed official status. Sensible buyers will pick up Les Hauts de Pontet in preference to a swathe of dull, often horribly brettanomyces-tainted Bordeaux that happily flaunt an officially sanctioned Appellation on their labels.
The belated creation of the Vin de France designation – which this wine will now proudly and unworriedly carry – was against the will of almost the entire French wine establishment. It was begrudgingly allowed in order to market basic, multi-regional plonk to stupid Anglo Saxons as a competitor to commercial wines from South-East Australia.

Today, as happened in Italy with the move towards Vino da Tavola in the 1980s, the designation is increasingly being adopted by quality-conscious producers who feel stifled by the  existing system.

Down the road from Pontet Canet, Chateaux La Lagune and Palmer have both recently launched high quality and well-received transgressive Rhône-Bordeaux blends with a Vin de France status. Those wines – and the 2012 Hauts de Pontet, will probably be enjoyed and remembered long after François Hollande has been more or less forgotten.


  1. This says a lot about the competency of the judges. No way (in my view) with their site, vineyard and winemaking expertise, would this fail either for quality or typicity. A trickle of properties opting out of AOC will quickly turn to a flood. Many already doing so with rose, and white / red will follow.

  2. Paul – did you taste the wine as submitted? Are you saying that there are never bad / atypical bottles from Pontet-Canet?

  3. Even if your wine is initially rejected, you are allowed a second shot, as I understand it. My point is that, of all properties in Bordeaux, Pontet Canet really doesn't rely on an appellation. If critics/consumers like les Hauts de Pontet, they'll buy it. If they don't, they won't. The presence or absence of the AOC will have less bearing than the prestige of the estate.

  4. Robert – you are correct. Several bottles are tested and there's the option to appeal (if they chose to in this case, who knows). My point – slight off on a tangent I admit – is that a lot of proprietors in Bdx will start opting out. A bit like a leaking dam.

  5. Paul, we're on the same page. The traditional appellation system encourages laziness: reliance on being a member of a herd. That can be valuable: it's better to be a Margaux Cru Bourgeois than a Medoc Cru Artisan. On the other had it can be questionable. How much extra value does Listrac give over Haut Medoc? What is the “worth” of St Emilion Grand Cru vs a strong Lalane de Pomerol?

    Ultimately, as you climb the premium ladder, the focus has to shift to the brand. I'd rather drink Lafon Macon – or Vin de France than Meursault from XXXX

  6. The number of great French wines willingly leaving the AOCs for Vin de France is very limited in comparison with the Italian at the period of the Supertuscans.
    And the reasons are different; the Italian voluntarily left DOC's which did not allow them to use the grapes they thought were more adapted or imposed silly rules for aging; in the case of Pontet Canet (or La Bégude in Bandol), it's the AOC who have expelled them (or rather, some of their cuvées).

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