Taken in its broadest sense, the notion of “soils for wine-growing”, often referred to as terroir, brings together several different factors: biological (choice of variety), geographical, climatic, geological and pedological (types of soil). Added to these are the human, historical and commercial aspects: for example, the existence of the port at Bordeaux and its commerce with Scandinavian countries encouraged the wine-growers of the 18th century to improve the quality of their wines.
In the northern hemisphere the vine is cultivated between the latitudes of 35° and 50°; it therefore has to adapt to very different climates. However, the most northerly vineyards usually cultivate only white varieties,
Two Bordeaux French wine areas are situated south of Charentes Maritime (the area famous for distilling Cognac): the larger Cotes de Blaye (including the Premieres Cotes de Blaye) and the smaller Cotes de Bourg. Both lie on the right bank of the mouth of the Gironde. Red French wines are produced in the south of this area and dry white French wines in the north.
This 3,600 hectares wine region is often called the 'Switzerland' of Bordeaux, because of the many rolling green hills. Both red and white French wines are produced here. The white French wines are extremely rare and to be honest best ignored as they offer nothing special in terms of quality. This Sauvignon white French wine is extremely fresh tasting and pleasing but best drunk as an aperitif. Drinking temperature: 9-10°C (48.2-50°F).
The red French wine is deeply and attractively coloured and fairly aromatic. When young it is quite rough but after several years ageing in the bottle the harsh tannin mellows. The taste is then rounded, full, and sometimes even seductive. The better quality for this French wines possess class, refinement, and elegance. Drinking temperature for this French wine: 16°C (60.8 °F).
This DO is certainly the least well-known of the four Aragonese wine-growing regions. This is unjust for although the Spanish wines of Campo de Borja and Cariñena are full and powerful, those of Calatayud exhibit greater finesse and elegance. Because the area is protected in the east by the Cordillera Ibérica and in the north by the Sierra de la Virgen, the climate is more moderate than the previous two areas. This Spanish wines therefore have a better balance between acidity and alcohol.
France still seth the standards by which most of the world’s finest wines are judged, but ar far as store sales are concerned, australian wines are rapidly moving into pole position.
For centuries France has been regarded as the leading wine country. It was almost universally considered that only French wines were good. This was unjust because countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary, and Greece have long made wine of top quality but the French managed to persuade the world that their wines had something special, that bit of extra quality.
French wine’s success has been created on deservedly popular regions that are enshrined by the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) laws, but unwillingness to guard such system in a meaningful logic has slowly debased historic reputations at precise point in the history when the New World manufacturers are eager at establishing their own range of wines.
France owns a total of 872 hectares of land under vine that also includes 70,000 hectares for the Cognac and 6,000 hectares for the Armagnac. It produces an average of approximately 57 million hectolitres of wine each year. From the mid of 1980s, there has been a drop in French wine production by 27% in response to moving away from lower-quality end of spectrum because wine consumers have started drinking less wine but they drink the better quality ones. The way that quality is classified is a highly contentious issue that is faced by the French wine industry.
Germany takes sixth place among the wineproducing nations of the world. Much of the production is intended for export, while Germany itself imports huge volumes of wine. This demonstrates the complexity of the German position. It seems as though the best German wines – but unfortunately also some of the worst - disappear into export markets while the Germans themselves tend to prefer beer or imported wines.
Compared with a country like France, the consumption of wine in Germany is quite low. Changes are also apparent though in Germany. Although the German government has always maintained that the German system of wine control was watertight and the best in Europe, in reality things were sometimes not right with the cheaper German wines.
Some wine traders were clearly more interested in quick profits than being ambassadors for the German wine industry. Creations with names such as 'Alte Wein Tradition' and 'Kellergeister' have done much to damage the reputation of German wines. On the other hand with the absurd prices of Bordeaux wines, in particular those of Sauternes, increasing numbers of people have been looking for cheaper alternatives. These can be found in Germany at prices that are quite attractive.
The demand for good quality but affordable German wine has increased in the past decade or so. The demand for dry German wines has also grown explosively. Most of the growers were quickly able to adapt themselves to the market situation. Growers constantly seek to find ways to guarantee the wine's quality while keeping the prices acceptable for everyone.
About German Wine...
Etyek to the west of Budapest is the closest wine area to the capital. Those who like their wine harsh will certainly find it here. Chardonnays here are greener than anywhere else and rarely convincing. Some wines even smell strongly of sulphur but these are best ignored for these Hungarian wines.
The Sauvignon Blancs of Etyek Vinum and Hungarovin (Gyôrgy Villa Selection) are much better. The best Etyek Hungarian wines are perhaps the less commercial ones such as Etyeki Kirâlyléanyka of Etyekvinum and Olaszrizling Gyôrgy Villa of Hungarovin. Drinking temperature for this Hungarian wine is 8-12°C (46.4-53.6°F).
This is another top Italian wine. Superb wines have been made with the Vemaccia grape for centuries in Tuscany and the makers of this Vemaccia wine have not rested on their laurels since being granted DOCG recognition. Constant efforts are made to develop and improve the quality both in the vineyard and with the wine making equipment. San Gimignano is outside the Classico zone for Chianti.
Monsieur d’Armailhac, in his 1855 book on viticulture in the Médoc, said the Listrac plateau could be compared to the region’s most favorably placed properties. With magnificent outcrops on either side—Forréad to the south and Fourcas to the north—the five-kilometer-long Listrac plateau is one of the highest in the Médoc. Monsieur Boissenot, a wine specialist, describes Listrac wine as follows: “Listrac wine presents in the mouth an extraordinary body, enveloping the palate. Its presence is built. This is the wine of oenophiles, this is the wine that you chew, so tight is its texture. Solidly constituted, tannic and structured, it is the perfect meeting of the fruit provided by Caber-net and the strength supplied by Merlot. As a result it is ample and silky, a mixture of spirit and virility.
Many of the world's vest producers believe that great wine is first created in the vineyard.
Indeed, it is difficult to argue with the suggestion that using top-quality ingredients helps when transforming grapes into red wine or good wine. White wine can be made from both white and black grapes. Crushing breaks the skins, after which de-staking takes place. Gentle pressing is favoured and skins are removed. Fermentation traditionally happends in oak barrels, although today, when minimal change is required, most white wines will ferment in stainless steel vats, Maturation in oak barrels can add another dimension and flavour profile to a good wine.
Red wine must be made from black grapes. This time the juice is fermented on the skins for better colour extraction. The juice, which runs freely after fermentation, is of the highest quality. The remaining pomace, or skins, are further crushed to release any more juice, which is generally used in blending for the best red wine.
We leave the right bank behind and complete our journey through the French wine region of Bordeaux in the Medoc, on the left bank of the Gironde. Medoc is more or less a peninsula with vineyards, bordered by the waters of the Gironde in the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the north-west, and the city of Bordeaux to the south-west, with the extensive forest of Les Landes to the south.
Soil and climate
The sand and gravel-bearing strip of land of about 5- 10 km (3-6 miles) wide provides a broad assortment of terroirs and microclimates. What is locally known as 'graves' is actually a complex mixture of clay, gravel stone, and sand. The stones have been deposited by the Garonne and some come from the Pyrenees (quartz and eroded material from glaciers). Some material is of volcanic origin from the Massif Central (quartz, flint, sandstone, igneous rock, sand, and clay) which has been carried first by the Cere and then the Dordogne. Here and there calciferous clay breaks through the gravel.
We have come closer now to Cape Town - about 50 km (31 miles) away. This is the home of the KWV and is undoubtedly the most famous of the South African wine region (in part because of the annual Nederburg wine auctions and tasting sessions).
The best known African wines from this region are the Sauvignon Blanc, Steen (Chenin Blanc), and Chardonnay whites, and Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon reds.
The descendants of French Huguenots have turned their region into a place of pilgrimage. There is a Huguenot monument at Franschhoek (which translates literally as 'French corner') but also superb wines. In addition to the other well-known varieties, the French Huguenots had a preference for Semillon.
This cru is an example of a family-run vineyard. The property of the Hervé family for many generations, it took its present form at the end of the nineteenth century. The fifteen hectares of vines in the Saillans commune, part of the Fronsac AOC, are particularly well positioned. Jean-Noël Hervé, who has a great respect for tradition, has devoted himself since 1977 to bringing out the best in this outstanding terroir, and to producing wines typical of the appellation.
Moulis, Medoc, wines, Mouton, year, Rothschild, Baron, vineyard, vines, quality
Port is one of the drinks that is most imitated but nowhere else has succeeded in making such wine of the same quality. Port is sun in a bottle but it is also inseparable from its early origins, the soil of shale and basalt. These factors ensure the difference between true port an its imitators.
For centuries, port was only a red wine but since 1935 white port has also been made in the same manner as red port. The only difference is the use of white grape varieties such as Malvasia. White port can be sweet, dry, or very dry.
The Premières Côtes de Bordeaux region stretches from Bassens to Saint-Maixant along the entire length of the Garonne, following the river's twists and turns. This hilly region makes for pleasant walking, offering many viewpoints. Visitors will also come across a number of small chateaux, monuments, and historic sites, such as the fortified towns of Rions and Cadillac. Many famous people were born, lived or spent holidays in this area, including Rosa Bonheur, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Anatole France, François Mauriac, and Gustave Eiffel.
This is certainly the best known but not the only quality DO of Galicia. The white Spanish wine of the Albariño grape is deservedly famous. Galicia has an attractive coastline with large inlets or estuaries here and there known as rías baixas or 'low rivers'. These are slightly reminiscent of the Scandinavian fjords. The rest of the country consists of green valleys in which the coolest and moistest vineyards of Spain are to be found.
There are three different soil types in Rías Baixas: bedrock of granite covered with alluvium, alluvial deposits, or a bedrock of granite with a covering of sand. The average height at which the vineyards are situated is about 1,476 feet (450 metres) . This Spanish wine is mainly white and made from 90% Albariño grapes. These Albariño grapes are said to be a twin of the Riesling. These are said to have been brought to Santiago de Compostella as gifts by German monks. Some wine is also made with Treixadura and/or Loureira Blanca, and also an extremely rare red produced from Brancellao and Cañio.
In recent years there has been major investment in Spanish vineyards and wineries, and the country’s best wines are now world class. Its reputation has been carved by red wines, perticularly those from Rioja.
Several growers have identified and recognised the importance of old vines, and today these are partly responsible for the super-concentrated and very expresive premium reds.
Spain has more land under vine than any other country. The most important Spanish variety is Tempranillo, closely followed by Garnacha. For white wines, Viura and the ‘workhorse’ Airén are grown widely, whith the fashionable Albariño taking centre stage in Rias Baixas. Not surprisingly, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are planted in the majority of Spanish wine regions, except Rioja. The best Spanish wines are quality graded at Denominacionde Origen, the equivalent of the French ACm and DOCa, a higher-quality grade introduced in 1991, initialy for the wines of Rioja. Although DOCa applies onli to Rioja, regions such as Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Penedes and Priorato are also producing some excellent wines.
In Rioja the wines are made in three districts sub-regions: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta in the highlands and the hot and dry Rijoa Baja. Rioja styles include Joven, Crianza, Reseva and Gran Reserva which is produced in the very best years. Ribera fel Duero, situated at high altitude, is purely a red wine area. It is home to some of Spain’s most sought-after and expresive wines made from the Tempranillo grape, locally known as Tinta Fino.
Navarra, a neighbouring region to Rioja, is home to experimentation with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot often blended with indigenous grapes such as Garnacha and Tempranillo. Spanish and international grapes are planted in the Mediterranean climate of Penedes, Many of the best Cava vineyards are found in this region.
Mostly red wines from Garnacha and Cariñena are grown in the mountainous setting of Priorato. These high-quality, structured wines can be truly exciting.
Portugal is a country concentrating on its amazing range of indigenous grape varieties, especially Toutiga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Trincadeira and Periquta, The regions of the Douro, Ribatejo, Alentjo, and Bairrada set the pace. For the wine consumer willing to try something different, Portugal can hold many a pleasant discovery.
The vineyards of St-Emilion surround the picturesque village of that name. The ancient Romans were certain of the quality of the local vineyards, as witnessed by the famous poet and consul Ausonius. The vineyards surrounding St-Emilion are situated on a plateau of calciferous soil and on hills of chalk-bearing loam or clay soils. West of St-Emilion the underlying ground is gravel. This is the area of the great French wines. Most St-Emilion wines though originate from sandy-sediments and ferruginous sandstone beds which reach to the Dordogne.
Basically Vins de table are fairly simple wines for daily consumption with a consistent taste that is usually achieved through blending. Some specific wines are also included in this category.
The growth in Vin de Pays wines is enormous at the present time and this is not suprising because of the great inprovements in quality of this better table wine in recent years.
A Vin de Pays originates from a strictly defined wine-growing area, representing the soul of a specific territoir and is linked to the special characteristics of one or more varieties of grapes. Consumers find these French wines appproacheble with clear language on the label. Some Vins de Pays wines are so well made and demonstrate such love on the part of the wine maker that they outperform characterless AOC wines of anonymous wine merchants in both quality and price. Today’s wine drinkers demand quality for their money.
The quality of these French wines is certainly not lower than AOC wines. The criteria for selection are indeed often more rigid than for most AOC wines. VDQS wines are the only ones which have to be tested annually on order to retain their category. A VDQS wine is always therefore approved by a panel of experts before the predicate is awarded. For this reason you can rely totally on this category.
French wine classed as AOC (usually referred to as AC) originates from a clearly defined area in which the soil, climate, variety of grapes, and various legally-defined requiments provide a guarantee that the wine originates fron a given place. This is not, however, a guarantee of quality since these French wines are not tested each year and some of them do not deserve a quality predicate. Despite this, AOC wines form the top category of French wines.
Here we mean additions such as ‘Premiere Cru’, or ‘Grand Cru’ for Bordeaux wines, not such meaningless phrases as ‘Vin Supérieure de la cave du patron’ or ‘Cuvée reservé du sommelier’.
The better Bordeaux were classified in 1885 for a World Exhibition, based on quality criteria of the time. At that time ot related solely to wines of Médoc, Sauternes and on wine from Graves.
This lattercategory received its own Cru in 1959. Other area which have a similar Premier and Grand Cru classification include St Emilion and Côtes de Procence. Since 1932 the term ‘Cru bourgeois’ has also been used in Médoc. In Burgundy terms such as ‘Premier Cru’ and ‘Grand Cru’ are part of the official name of origin.
Some labels bear predicates such as ‘Grand Cru’ or ‘Premier Cru’. These descriptions are in no way a guarantee of quality of the Champagne. They merely relate to the quality of the Champagne. They merely relate to the quality of the grapes used in the making of the wine.
This wine is very very dry. After degorgement, extra brut is solely topped up with the same wine and therefore contains virtually no residual sugar. Few people appreciate Champagne as dry as chalk.
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