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Wines of France, Part 3


"A sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle."
— Charles Baudelaire

Wine book


Like other commodities, wine is subject to the laws of supply and demand. Wine is an agricultural product, and the time between planting new acreage and mature grape production is relatively long. Since the end of World War II, the demand for table wine in the West has increased steadily. Also during this period the classic fine wines of Europe, with their traditional and limited production methods, have increased considerably in price. At the same time newer regions, including California, have increased and improved production to provide the consumer with everyday drinking wines.

The great increase in wine consumption in the United States and elsewhere has by no means saturated production capacity; indeed, there is almost a permanent world overproduction of wine. The price of fine wines will likely increase still further under the impetus of the demand for them, both for drinking and for investment buying. In the long term the price of fine and everyday wines will be affected by the performance of the economy of the West and the consequent affluence of the average consumer, and by inflation.


Wine bottles should be laid on their side to prevent the corks from drying out and the air getting at the wine. There should be no great fluctuation in temperature: 13-16 degrees C (55-60 degrees F) for reds, 10-13 degrees C (50-55 degrees F) for whites being ideal. Humidity should be 70 to 80 percent, and the storage place should be free from drafts, light, and vibration.


Red wine should be served at room temperature, 18-22 degrees C (65-72 degrees F). White and rosé wines should be at refrigerator temperature, 6-10 degrees C (43-50 degrees F). Only wines that have thrown a sediment in the bottle, such as vintage port, red Bordeaux, and red Burgundy, need be decanted before drinking.

Michael Broadbent
Source: The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Release #8, ©1996
Bibliography: Leon David Adams, The Wines of America, 4th ed. (1990); Maynard Andrew Amerine, et al., Technology of Wine Making, 4th ed. (1980); Anthony Dias Blue, The Buyer's Guide to American Wines (1992); Michael Broadbent, Michael Broadbent's Pocket Guide to Wine Vintages (1992; updated 2000) and The New Great Vintage Wine Book, rev. and enl. ed. (1991); David Burroughs and Norman Bezzant, Wine Regions of the World, 2d ed. (1988); Jan Farkas, The Technology and Biochemistry of Wine, 2 vols. (1988); Hugh Johnson, Vintage: The Story of Wine (1989); Alexis Lichine, Alexis Lichine's New Encyclopedia of Wine and Spirits, 5th ed. (1987); Frank Prial, et al., eds., The Companion to Wine (1992); Pamela V. Price, editor, Christie's Wine Companion (1990); Tim Unwin, Wine and the Vine: An Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade (1991).


All French wines are classified according to a very strict hierarchy based on the source and the control of the production. These classifications are an indication of the potential for the quality of the wine. The actual quality may vary so drastically that a good wine of a lower classification is better than some of the higher-classification wines (and vice-versa of course).


Wine & cheese

AOC - Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée — The top of the line, AOC applies to French wines from precisely specified regions, and with the most rigid controls, specified by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO). The items controlled include the: variety of grapes, density and size of vines, maximum yield, minimum alcohol level, method of culture and vinification. AOC wines will be the most exclusive and, of course, the most expensive wines.

Note: Appellation, on its own, is simply the identifying name or designation of a wine.

Cru Classé — A high-quality classification used by only a few appellations, including Côte de Provence (and Grave, Médoc, Saint-Emilion and Sauterne). Originally, Cru Classé was one of the five categories of Médoc wines classified in 1855.

VDQS ( Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure) — The second-highest classification, "superior quality wine", has strict controls on production and variety of grapes used. The label has a VDQS icon in the lower-left corner, and specifies the type of grape it's made from. VDQS wines make up less than 2% of total production, and are generally waiting for approval to AOC status. To simplify the French wine classification system, this category will be eliminated in 2011.

Vin de Pays — A vin de pays is a higher-class table wine, from a particular region of France and with a specific vintage. The vin de pays is controlled primarily for the source of the grapes and also for the density of vines: the amount that can be produced per hectare. The region of a vin de pays can be very large or quite small.

Vin de Table — This is your basic French "table wine", available in small food shops, giant hypermarché supermarkets, and served by the pitcher at cafés and restaurants familiales (family restaurants). Vin de table is sold in 1-litre bottles, either plastic or the classic "6-star" glass bottles. The quality can vary from "sharp" to very good indeed, and the price is often not an indication of the quality.

Table wines are blended from several different sources, and more and more now include wines from other parts of the European Union. The vin de table label shows the alcoholic degree of the wine. The higher-percentage table wines are often smoother.

Source: Wine Beyond the French Riviera


Individual vineyards often assign categories to their own wines, indicating levels of quality. Since the different wines of a vineyard are assigned their categories by experts, for aiding everyone from us novices to experienced vinophiles, it's a good indication of relative quality. The final taste that suits you, however, could easily transcend categorization; so do your own tasting, and select what pleases you best.

The categories used by the Cellier des Quatre Tours, in Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, for example, are typical: Cuvée PRESTIGE, Cuvée TRADITION, Cuvée CLASSIQUE.

Source: Wine Beyond the French Riviera

French Wines (continued)right arrow


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