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Archive for the ‘Wines of France’ Category

As disgusted in How to Pick French Wine Part 1 French wines are heavily regulated and have their own way of classifying each vineyard and wine. There classifications would not be so hard to understand if France used one classification standard , but they don’t.  The good news is that there is an endless amount of books and websites about French wines. The bad thing is that most of the books and websites have so much unimportant information for an everyday wine drinker that we close the book before getting the answers. So what I have done is removed all the unimportant  information and just broke down the sub-regions classification.

The first Sub-Region we will go over is Alsace. Alsace is somewhat an uncommon region to see on a wine list, I say that because Alsace is predominantly a white grape region.  Grapes that are known to grow in Alsace are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blac, Pinot Gris, and Muscat, and a little Chardonnay. The only red grape that is planted is Pinot Noir.

5 Different classifications you may see on Alsace wine label

  • Vins de Table
  • Vin de Pays
  • Reserve
  • Grand Cru
  • Late Harvest

You will rarely see  Vins de Table & Vin de Pays since they are considered lesser quality wines and generally not sold in the US.

Reserve- can be labeled with just the vineyard name or have the vineyard name plus Grand Cru (we will go over what Grand Cru means i just a second). Also you may see labels with recerve personelle or reserve excetionnelle, but neither of these have legal definitions and should not be considered when picking a wine.

Grand Cru- is the highest level of classification of AOC wines from Alsace.   A wine bottle that is labeled with Grand Cru is supposed to be the best from the best vineyards and wine makers. … a side note – there are a few vineyards that refuse to take the Grand Cru classification even though the have been awarded the classification because they are not happy with how judging is process so it is important to try all classifications.

Late Harvest – is usually the most expensive of the 5 classifications. Producers may label with Vendange Tardive or Selection de Grains Nobles.  Late harvest is usually an indication of a sweet dessert wine.

 

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France is believed to produces some the finest wines to be tasted. Why? Although France is a not a very big country (the whole country of France can fit inside Texas state lines), it is home to some of the biggest names/regions in the wine industry. The French climate and soil seem to be perfect for growing wine. Also Frence soil varies greatly with each region/sub-region so the wine produce will have different wine characteristics depending on what area the grapes were grown in. But the biggest reason why French wines are believed to be among one of the greatest regions to produce wine is the Appellation d’Origine Controllee (AOC ) which translates into “controlled term of origin”. The AOC regulates and classifies the vineyard and the wine the vineyard produces.

French Regions: Champagne, Alsace, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cote du Rhone, Languedoc -Roussillon, and Provence

AOC Regulation for Wine: Area of Production, Variety of Grape, Yield per Hectare, Vineyard Practices, Degree of Alcohol, Winemaking Practices, Tasting and Analysis, and Varietal Labeling

There is a lot more info that we could get into on the laws and regulations for French wines but for a normal everyday wine drinker it’s really not that  important and really boring. But what you do need to know is the Basic Quality Designation. There are three major classifications Vins de Table, Vins de Pays, and AOC regulated wine.

Vins de Table– Is table wine, some would say the lowest form of wine made in France. Usually very cheaply priced

Vins de Pays- Means “country wine” and is a step above Vins de Table but not of the quality of a AOC regulated wine. Vins de Pays is generally reasonably price.

Appellation d’Origine Controllee (AOC )- AOC regulated wine are the most important to learn. Since each sub-region has its on way of classifying the wines. I will have to list by sub-regions to make it as simple as possible. This will be done on How to Pick a French Wine (Part 2)

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2007 Les Caves Joseph Bordeaux

  • Color- Lite Straw yellow
  • Nose- Grapefruit, Citrus, Pear, Mint
  • Body- Medium to Light
  • Taste- Citrus, Lime, Pear, Grapefruit

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2008 Louis Jadot, French Beaujolais (Ralphs 9.99)

  • Color- Purple, Red
  • Nose- Old tire, Smoke wood,  Cherries
  • Body- Light
  • Taste- Cherries, Smoke wood (not oak), smooth

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