This is my essay for my Food, Wine, and Culture class and I thought I would share it with you all tonight. I thought it was all very interesting. I even have a bottle of Tavel one of the most popular Rosés from the Rhône Valley.
There are many famous regions in France known for their wines. Alsace, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire Valley, Rhône Valley, and Languedoc are probably the most well known regions that produce the most popular wines. According to ZagatWine, “France’s variety of growing conditions couldn’t be better suited to wine. Mediterranean, Atlantic, Alpine, river and continental influences all come into play, helping an amazing array of grape varieties to thrive”. France is known as one of the oldest countries in Europe that produce wine. Greek voyagers planted some of the first vines in the 6th century. “French winemakers produce a variety of different styles and types of wine. Applying some generalizations on major varietals, regions, and appellations makes it easier to solidify an understanding of French wines” (Laloganes p. 174).
The regions of France are usually divided into three parts based on climate and varietal of grape. The northeastern section of France including Alsace, Burgundy, and Champagne, the Western section with regions like Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, and the southern or mid-central sections of Languedoc and the Rhône Valley. These sections and regions all vary in climate, varietal, and technique.
Alsace has a long history being claimed and reclaimed by Germany and France, spanning from 1648 until 1945 when Alsace became part of France for good. Alsace is the nation’s largest producer of white wine. “The primary grapes of Alsace are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Pinot Blanc. Arguably the greatest wines of the region come from the Riesling varietal” (Laloganes p. 178). Alsace has two areas that are wine-specific. The Bas Rhin is more in the northern part of Alsace and has a climate that is fairly cold and wet. Haut Rhin is located in the south and supports many higher quality vineyards. There is little rainfall and lots of sun, which allows the grapes to ripen longer and have better flavor. “Wine production in Alsace traces its beginnings to the early centuries of the Roman Empire, when the conquering forces introduced viticulture and vinification” (Prial par. 2). The Alsatians use a lot of the same varietals as their German neighbors, but Alsatians let their wine go through a longer vinification process. “Alsace is similar to California in that wines are named after the grape type predominantly used in vinification, rather than the locale where the grapes were harvested, as is the usual French practice” (Prial par 3).
In the Western part of France is the Loire Valley. It is one of the world’s greatest regions of white wine. “Loire produces various styles of wine, such as sparkling wine, dry table wine, off-dry table wine, and sweet dessert wine” (Laloganes p. 179). The Loire region is not as prestigious or well known as some other regions in France, but they have turned to organic and biodynamic farming as well as winemaking to become better recognized. This adds distinctiveness and marketability to Loire wine. Similar to Alsace, Loire is most well known for their white wine varietals, including Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadet. They also produce some reds, like, Cabernet Franc and Gamay varietals. “Wines are almost always unblended and are typically unoaked or lightly oaked. The philosophy of winemaking is to showcase the true nature of the grape” (Laloganes p. 180). The Loire Valley has its own regions, which are separated into the Central Loire, Touraine, Anjou-Saumer, and Pays Nantais. In the Central Loire region, Sauvignon Blanc is distinct and “known as Blanc Fumé because of the smoky, or flintlike, aromas it possesses” (Laloganes p. 180). Touraine’s climate it what makes this region stand out. The climate offers good cultivation conditions for white as well as red wines. One of the most popular and celebrated wines in Touraine is the Vouvray appellation. These wines are mostly produced from Chenin Blanc and made in wines ranging from dry to sweet. Anjou-Saumer is a large producer of dry white wines, but is also famous for the production of sweet wines. In the Pays Nantais region of the Loire Valley, a light, dry white wine is prominently produced, sometimes with a Muscadet, or a light spritz. This region of Loire Valley is located near the Atlantic coast in the central part of France.
The Rhône Valley is located in the Southeast part of France, and divided into two main areas, Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône. “The Northern Rhône terrain is steep and cooler, whereas the Southern Rhône is flatter, sunny and warmer. Nearly all Rhône wines are red, followed by rosés and whites” (Laloganes p. 187). Northern Rhône predominantly produces red wines, like Syrahs, but also produces small amounts of whites. The Syrah grape can be cellared for long periods of time and continue to improve for decades, so the older the Syrah is the better the taste. In Southern Rhône, the red wines are blends of grapes and sometimes contain up to a dozen red and white varieties. Some rosé appellations include Tavel and Lirac. “Rosés of Tavel often produce medium bodied wines with refreshing acid levels” (Laloganes p. 188).
The history of French wine goes all the way back to the 6th century, and that is why France is known as the inventor of wine. French wine has the pretty bottles, the pictures, the appellations, the classifications, books, maps and vintages. All these aspects make French wine so popular. According to ZagatWine, “The world’s 10 most expensive wines are all French, and France makes more wine than any other country.”