There are are still some regulatory requirements including limitations on yields, a minimum alcohol content, limitations on acidity and a requirement that the wines be produced and kept separately from other wines. However the requirements are generally less restrictive than those of an AOC. The Vin de pays designation was first proposed in the the late 60's and was fully and formally adopted nationwide by 1979. The geographic designations can be regional, geographic or local with six different regions and 50 different French departments among the designations.
Since the European Union adopted the PGI (Indication Geographique Protegee) in 2009, all the French vin de pays designations have been registered as PGI's with the European Union. French producers may now choose to label as a vin de pays, PGI or PGI/vin de pays. These wines are similar to the IGT designation in Italy, Vino de Tierra in Spain, Vinho Regional in Portugal and Landwein in Germany. The variation in quality is wide ranging and can include some wines that rival the best of higher classifications in quality and price. It may also include some of the country's cheaper, lesser made wines. It is also an area where the wine drinker on a budget can find some his best bargains and where, with some due diligence, he can purchase his best "bang for the buck".
Such seems to be the case with a recent discovery The Wine Guy made here in Ecuador. The wine was a Montrouge Vin de Pays de Mediterranee Syrah-Grenache Blend. Montrouge is a brand owned by the well known Caymus Wine and Spirits Group of Cognac, France. This fifth generation wine family is best known for high end, high quality brandies. However, they also handle a number of AOC and vin de pays wines including the Montrouge brand. This wine is imported into Ecuador by the family consortium that owns the Coral retail chain. It is carried in their retail stores as the equivalent of a private brand. It currently sells at just a few dollars above the U.S. market price. Considering the high import taxes on alcohol imposed by the Ecuadorian government, that's a bargain. It's drinkability and its affordable price (under $15) makes it an attractive alternative to the usual $40-$50 range here for a GSM or Chateauneuf du Pape from France.
It was enjoyable enough that The Wine Guy is planning a return excursion to Coral Centro in Cuenca to sample more of the Montrouge line. If any fellow Cuencanos sample more of these nice vin de pays, let me know your reactions.