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Zind Humbrecht Zind Z006

The French wine industry seems very adept at shooting itself in the foot. May I present a few recent controversies as evidence? First, witness the hilariously ridiculous situation created recently in France whereby the Evin Law, by virtue of its failure to include the internet (the law, which concerns alcohol advertising, had been drafted and passed years ago, before the internet took off) effectively made advertising and sale of wine online illegal in France. Thankfully an amendment to the law resolved this potentially thorny issue, but I have no shortage of other evidence. What about the creation and then collapse of the Vignobles de France category, a new, kinder version of vin de table? A brilliant idea, this new category heralded the deregulation of French wine to allow more extensive cross-regional blending, the use of currently unauthorised varieties, oak chips and more - everything today's vigneron needs to make modern, inexpensive branded wine in fact, and thereby save the French wine industry from its current crisis.

Sadly this particularly novel and un-French ship ran aground. The opposition came principally from the Fédération Régionale des Vignerons Indépendants du Languedoc-Roussillon and the Syndicat des Vignerons de l’Hérault, and although their true gripe was perhaps a sense of unfair play their case centred around two interesting technicalities. First - EU legislation states any regional wine produced by a state should come from a region smaller than the state itself - so you can't blend a wine using produce from anywhere in the country. And second - the terrifying possibility that as a result of blending across regions someone could blend chaptalised and non-chaptalised wine, an event not currently covered in any existing legislation. Quelle horreur!

And so for the moment we still have vin de table which was, until recently at least, an easy category to understand. Forbidden from declaring either vintage or variety on the label, it was clearly a very low rung on the quality ladder. Well….perhaps that latter point is no longer true. There are today a handful of producers throughout France who, for various reasons, are making use of this sort of category, akin to the now dwindling use of the vino da tavola category in Italy by producers frustrated by the constraints of DOC regulations, producers and wines subsequently known as the super-Tuscans. This week’s wine falls into the vin de table category thanks to its inclusion of a forbidden Alsace variety, namely Chardonnay (blended with other more typical Alsace varieties). Olivier Humbrecht circumvented the vintage rule by giving each “batch” a lot number, beginning with Z – this is lot Z006, so you don’t need to be a Conan Doyle-creation to deduce the vintage (although if you aren't managing, you can always check out the cork). As for variety, this is no problem; he has opted for a brand name, Zind, instead.

In future, however, these sorts of tricks and work-arounds may no longer be necessary, for there is a new ship on the horizon. This is the Vin de France category, a less sweeping revolution than Vignobles de France, but one that does at least allow variety and vintage onto the label. The edict comes into force on August 1st 2009, just in time to be applied to the 2009 vintage. Which - as an aside - leaves me rather confused as to Marc Angeli's wines. Angeli's wines have on occasion been refused the agrément for being atypical, and I suspect in more recent vintages he has simply opted out without even courting the INAO tasters. But note that his recently reviewed 2008 Rosé d’un jour was actually a Vin de France, and the 2007s that I tasted earlier this year were the same. Has Angeli jumped the gun?

Anyway, back to this week's wine, the Zind Humbrecht Zind Z006. I wasn't sure what to expect from this wine; deep colour, well-poised largesse and a big helping of residual sugar would be a reasonable expectation considering the producer in question. Certainly the colour is evident in the glass, it being a deep but bright lemon-gold. On the nose, too, it seems to have something that speaks of Zind-Humbrecht and Alsace, although this wasn't tasted blind so such superficial and subjective impressions are obviously greatly prone to suggestion. Being objective, there is an appealing, crystalline style of fruit, dripped with a little honey that does indeed seem to suggest richness and sugar, but providing something of a sense of olfactory balance there are notes of white flower petals, crunchy blackcurrant leaves and a hint of the almost obligatory Zind Humbrecht minerality, which has a very powdery-rocky style. On the palate it kicks off with some texture, suggesting residual sugar, but immediately it flattens out and through the midpalate and finish this is broad, gently fleshy but really very dry. There is a delicious defining acidity, but overall the impression is of polished weight with matching acid, rather than profound vibrancy. Really rather more zippy and lively towards the finish though, with pure lemon and peppery, leafy fruit throughout. This is really fine, especially for a summer's evening. Who needs appellations? 17+/20 (27/7/09)

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