France, more than any other wine-producing country, offers an unequaled selection of wines. They span every taste sensation and include
some of the greatest wines the world has ever known. Great wines are never inexpensive. But because French wines are so varied, they cover a braod range of
Blessed with an ideal combination of soil, climate and a long tradition of wine making, France has over the centuries created wines that are the standards
against which all other wines are judged.
About one million Frenchmen grow grapes. From these grapes come wines of every style, each different from those of other regions.
The centuries-old wine history of France has shown that the quality of a wine is tied to two factors: the grape variety and the soil. So the same grape
variety will produce a different wine in one place than it will in another place where the soil is different. Under AOC laws, only grape varieties that have
proven themselves best for that place are allowed to be grown there and to be used in that wine.
Some wines are, by tradition and law, made of several varieties- Bordeaux red for example can be made of 6 different grapes. Other wines such as beaujolais
must be made of only one variety.
When more grapes per acre are produced, the concentration of taste tends to decrease. In order to prevent overproduction and maintain high standards, a
maximum number of gallons of wine per acre has been established. As an appellation becomes more specific- St. Emilion for instance- the number of gallons
allowed from each acre decreases.
AOC laws also limit the number of vines per acre as well as the pruning methods.
It is under these strict regulations that French wine makers must try to produce the best quality wines. They are not even allowed to irrigate!
Wine tours: Champagne
Champagne, with its bubbles and fresh fruity taste, is the most famous wine in the world.In its incomparable style and finesse, it is unique. Born in the
province of Champagne, in northeastern France, it is the only one of the world’s many sparkling wines that rightly bears the name “Champagne.”
Located about 90 miles from Paris, and the most northern of the French wine regions, the Champagne region is known for its chalky soil and harsh climate.
Grape growing was known in the Champagne region long before the Romans arrived, and the Romans who settled there continued the practice of growing grapes.
They also dug long, deep tunnels for quarries that are used even today as wine cellars.
A Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon is credited with the accidental discovery of bubbles being created in the bottle.
The grapes used to make this celebratory wine are the white chardonnay and 2 red grapes- pinot noir and pinot meunier. Some champagne is made only from white
grapes and is known as Blanc de Blancs. A small amount of rosé champagne is made. Most champagne however is a blend of the white juice of both red and white
Champagne starts out just like any other wine: the grape juice is fermented. But the wine is allowed to undergo another fermentation. A small amount of sugar
and yeast is added to the wine and this causes a second fermentation. Only this time the bubbles of carbon dioxide are not allowed to escape and remain in
Before sending the sparkling wine to the market, different amounts of sugar are added. Brut for instance is champagne that contains almost no sugar. Extra
dry is very slightly sweet. Sec refers to a fairly sweet wine and doux is the sweetest category.
Champagne bottles come in different sizes. In addition to the standard size and magnums, there is the jeroboam (4 bottles), rehoboam (6 bottles), methuselah
(8 bottles), salmanazar (12 bottles), balthazar (16 bottles and nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles.)
All champagne should be served chilled and in a tulip shaped glass. To open the bottle, hold it at a 45 o angle, remove the wire, grasp the cork firmly and
turn the bottle working the cork out slowly.