Wine Enthusiast’s much-awaited Buying Guide selected the Rives-Blanques chardonnay-chenin blanc 2016 as one of its Best Buys, in its exhaustive global roundup of world wines.
Wine Enthusiast also paid special attention to the IGP Pays d’Oc region: a region with a huge diversity of climates and conditions, whose wine output accounts for 14% of French wine production, and exceeds that of New Zealand. They pointed out that there is a panel of professional tasters to test the quality of every wine bottled under the IGP Pays d’Oc label.
There is another select, independent panel which choses the best of the Pays d’Oc wines for the prestigious Ambassador Collection. The region is “a hotbed for innovation, creative freedom and value”, they said, and the Ambassador wines are the representatives of the outstanding quality they offer. The Rives-Blanques chardonnay-chenin blanc is one of those wines, elected to the Ambassador’s Collection for the third time.
Pays d’Oc PGI broadly covers the south of France. So, it’s big. This wine-making powerhouse incorporates the 4 departments of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The designation focuses primarily on varietal wine or wine made from a single grape, and bottles are conveniently labelled with the grape name. This unique selling point creates a consumer-friendly product since many of the world’s drinkers find variety, rather than region, easier to understand. In fact, experts attribute the success of the Pays d’Oc PGI to this phenomenon. Since the first Pays d’Oc PGI bottles hit shelves in 1987, sales have soared from 80,000 to a current 800 million. A staggering 24 bottles are sold every second worldwide.
But volume sales stats aren’t the whole story. Wine growers have a whopping 58 different permitted grape varieties from which to choose. A large share of French Syrah and Chardonnay are grown in Pays d’Oc, and it boasts the world’s most extensive Merlot plantings. Of course, not all wine is varietal. Many beautiful blends come from this PGI. Growers also have an array of soils in which to plant: sand, limestone, schist, and clay, all graced with a warm Mediterranean climate. And since Pays d’Oc has fewer rules and fees than an appellation like Burgundy, vintners are free to mix and match grapes, providing exciting variety and unparalleled value for the consumer.
Regarding quality, 100 percent of proposed Pays d’Oc wines are analyzed and tasted by an independent panel before being labeled and sold under the category. To help promote the region and it’s commitment to quality, an international jury convenes annually to select outstanding ‘Collection’ wines. These top examples serve a year-long ambassadorship for the region as they are showcased at a raft of events in France and abroad. This year, Wine Enthusiast’s Roger Voss was part of the jury panel alongside eleven other international experts representing seven nationalities.