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I Love French Wine and Food-Launching a Series

This article will launch our new series, I Like French Wine and Food. You may be aware that we have written over two dozen articles in our first series, I Like Italian Wine and Food. This series will continue this labor of like, but for French wine and food. While this article launches the French series, it is really not our very first one describing French wine and food. We posted the article I Like French Wine and Food – Beaujolais Nouveau in time for the opening of the Beaujolais Nouveau season in mid-November. We will soon be taking a look at other wines in the Beaujolais region of southeastern France.

Let’s start with a few statistics for the French wine industry as a whole. France constantly fights with Italy for the title of the world’s largest wine producer. As in many other European countries, the French are drinking less wine, but better wine. France has more than 2 million acres devoted to grape vines, and produces more than 600 million cases of wine each year. France exports over one third of its wine production all over the world including a considerable part to the United States.

We are going to look at eleven wine French regions: in alphabetical order they are Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Jura and Savoie, Languedoc-Rousillon, the Loire Valley, Provence and Corisca, the Rhône Valley, and Southwest France. Each article will discuss the region and its distinctiveness. We’ll talk about the wines and the foods that characterize the region. We will try to have at least two articles per region. All articles in the series (except for this one) will give our unbiased tasting report on a wine. We will taste the wine with food, including several main courses and at least one imported cheese usually French, and sometimes from elsewhere in Europe. In our Italian series the wines we tasted cost between $6 and $38, but were mostly in the range from $10 to $20. We expect to pay more for French wines but intend to work in approximately the same price range. Don’t expect a report on three fine French Champagnes. We are going to be flexible in our wine tasting. But there are two rules that we follow. First rule, all wines that we taste and review have been bought at the full retail price. Second rule, if we are miserable with a wine we will let you know. If you followed our previous series, you know that we weren’t always pleased with the Italian wines we tasted and I’ve got the amusing feeling that the same thing will happen with French wines.

Now back to the subject of French wines.

Wine Classification.
France has legally defined four national wine classifications that presumably help the consumer make a selection when faced dozens of unfamiliar choices. Some regions such as Bordeaux define additional classifications that will be discussed in the appropriate articles. The French national classifications were first introduced in 1935 with the goal of regulating wine production in given geographical areas and helping the areas to develop their own specific identity. Starting with the lowest level, these four classifications are vin de table, vin de pays, Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure-VDQS, and Appellation d’Origine Contrôlé-AOC.

Vin de table may be translated as table wine. Table wine production has been severely reduced during the last decade or so. At present, only about 12% of French wine carries this plebian classification. Nearly all table wines are red. Table wines follow few rules, except that their marks may not indicate the grape varieties used, the vintage year, or the specific area that the grapes came from. You won’t find many French table wines for sale in North America.

Vin de pays may be translated as country wine. This category was first established in 1968. At present, the annual production of vin de pays is more than twice that of vin de table. The mark must indicate the location where the grapes were harvested. Once in a while an exceptional vin de pays is produced, which should not be surprising when you consider that nearly one French wine bottle in three carries this classification. Let’s not worry about vin de pays’s specific rules which can be complicated. Sooner or later, we will probably review such wines. With a small luck we’ll find a bargain or two.

Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure – VDQS may be translated as superior wine. This is a very tiny classification, comprising only about 30 French wines. You may reckon of it as a waiting room for AOC, the highest French wine classification. Of course, not every VDQS wine gets promoted. We are not going to make a specific effort to find VDQS wines.

Appellation d’Origine Contrôlé – AOC may be translated as controlled-origin appellation. Approximately half of all French wine is accorded this top-level classification. I don’t know about you, but such a high percentage makes me wonder how helpful this classification can be. To achieve the AOC classification, a wine must meet laws defining the grape varieties used, the grape growing methods and wine-making methods employed, the maximum yield produced, and the minimum alcoholic content. In addition, the wine must pass a taste test. When you consider that only about 3% of wine tasted fails the taste test, don’t be surprised that the AOC classification is far from a guarantee of quality. Most of the wines that we will be tasting carry the AOC classification.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Presently his wine websites are theworldwidewine.com theworldwidewine.com and theitalianwineconnection.com theitalianwineconnection.com

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