The Best Wine Region Since the Dark Ages
France. The most famous place in the world for wine. Why? In a word, history. French wines have their roots in the Roman Empire, whose legions and followers planted vineyards as they crossed the continent. And before the French, the Greeks. The religious orders in France took care to protect the French grape vines during the Dark Ages. The records they kept have helped the French continue to make wine perfected over centuries. France is still the leader for all the world’s best known red and white wines, though different countries and regions around the world interpret them differently. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are just a few examples of wines that have spread across the world.
Why Knowing French Wine Law is Key to Finding Good French Wine
In France, there are four legal “ranks” or ratings of French wine, which serves as a good indicator of how relatively cheap or expensive the wine is. The rank usually appears on the label, and indicates (from highest to lowest) the general status of the wine. “Appellation Contrôlée” (AOC or AC) ratings are the highest grade. “Vins Délimités de Qualité Supérieure (VDQA) ratings translate to “demarcated wine of superior quality.” “Vins de Pays” ratings essentially mean “country wines”, and is usually followed on the label with the name of the area the grapes are from. And lastly, “Vins de Table,” French table wines that have no region, vintage or grape variety indicated on the label.
Where the Name of the Wine is Where it’s From
Whether red or white, most French wines are named after the regions they originate from. This works primarily because each region specializes in the production of different types of wines and flavors. Though there are ten wine producing regions in France, the major wine areas in France include: Burgundy (Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chardonnay), Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) the Loire Valley and Alsace (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris), the Rhone Valley (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat), and Champagne (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay).
A recent Wine PocketList search showed that – in general – the wines with higher ratings tended also to be those with higher prices. But, we found that more than one A- wine (white and red) was represented in the “bargain” category of under $10. And while not many of these highly rated wines are widely available (over 20,000 cases imported), when you do find them they are worth the effort.