An Introduction to French Wine

This is the first part in a series of posts on, obviously, French wine. How many posts will there be? Well, . . . we’ll let you know when we find out! The truth is that we could probably go on for years about all that is French wine, but we’re trying to be concise here, so we’ll bring you one blog post a week about a different area in France. Our goal is a simple one: to educate you on the beauty of French wines. Anyone that’s ever been to our shop can attest to the fact that we love these wines and we want you to love them too!
This week, we’ll start by covering a few of the basics about the French wine industry and all of the info you need to know to get started.

Law of the Land

You have to remember that people have been making wine in France for thousands of years. Even before the Romans invaded, the first grapevines had been planted by Greek explorers and wine was a common drink among the locals.

This has given the French plenty of time to come up with complex series of laws regarding wine production and labeling, and understanding these laws is key to understanding French wine.

Here are the key things to remember:

  • Unlike wines in America, French wines are typically named after the place in which they’re made. For example, when you see a wine labeled Chablis, you automatically know two things about the wine: 1) That is was produced in the town of Chabli and 2) that it’s made of chardonnay, the only grape legally allowed to grow there.
  • The villages where wines are produced are legally defined geographic areas called, in French, an appellation. You’ll see this labeled on a bottle as either AOC (Appellation Controlee) or, more often, AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protegee).
  • Even within a single AOP, there can still be further delineation. For example, a wine from the AOP of Bordeaux could then be listed as being from the district of Margeaux or St. Emillion, and even then, it could be again listed as being from a specific village in that district, such as Soussnns in Margaux.
  • Wine in France is classified into a tiered structure, in which (generally) the more specific the classification, the better the wine should be. Often, these classes are referred to as “crus” which literally translates to “growth” in English. The top most of these is “Grand Cru” with “Premier Cru (sometimes written as 1er Cru).”

So, what do all of these laws mean for you? Well, unless you’ve been brushing up on your French geography, not much. However, this is exactly why we’re breaking down our future blog posts based on geography. We’re visiting each wine region individually so that, even if you don’t remember exactly where Vouvray is in the Tourinne region of the Loire Valley, you’ll still know that it makes some of world’s most amazing chenin blanc.

So, sit back, pour yourself a glass and enjoy!

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