Basic Guide to French Wine
One thing connoisseurs and non-connoisseurs of wine tend to agree about is that you can't talk about wine without mentioning French wine.
Most people who are not connoisseurs of wine or wine making tend to think of all things wine as being French. Perhaps it has something to do with the success of different varieties of French grapes on the international wine making scene or the fact that culturally, most things elegant are deemed French.
But whatever the case, even people in a restaurant unfamiliar with wine selections, and pressed to order something, are more likely to opt for the most French sounding bottle than anything else.
Wine from France is created and labeled according to a number of different rules. Some which are enforced by the relevant authorities within France and others enforced by the European Union which France is a part of.
French Wine Categories:
- Vin de Table
- Vin de Pays
- Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure
- Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
The first two categories are table wines. The first of these, Vin de Table, is used to describe wine that only has the wine makers name and a statement attesting to the fact that it was produced in France.
The second table wine category, Vin de Pays, is used to classify wines made within a specific wine region, but with less restrictive rules than other methods of categorizing wine.
The first of the last two categories, Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure, is the second most valued category. Usually wines don't bear this category for too long because after a couple of years they tend to move into the highest Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée category.
However, new French wine rules are set to eliminate this second highest category by the end of 2011. After this period, such wine will either be classified as the lower Vin de Pays, or if they qualify, the superior Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.
The final category of wine, Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée, is reserved for the finest of wines. There are so many rules governing the naming of such wines. They must be made from within a specific region, with certain grapes and specific wine making methods.
While some consider this to be the highest indication of the quality of a wine of French origins, additional terms such as the Premier Cru and the higher Grand Cru designations tend to further define wine of French origins. These are technically not classifications but indications of the quality of the vineyard that produces such wines.
The most commonly produced red wines in France are the Merlot and the Grenache. In terms of white wines you have the Ugni Blanc and the Chardonnay.
Rosé wine and sparkling wine also have their preferred wine grapes, but in terms of wine production in France, these are the top grapes for red and white wine categories.