The vineyards of Cahors are among the oldest in France, enjoying great fame as early as the fifth century. This French wine could be shipped throughout the world without loss of quality because it was robust, complex, and highly concentrated. Consequently wine from Cahors was much prized in America but especially in Tsarist Russia.
Nothing happened around Cahors for many years after the phylloxera epidemic of the late nineteenth century, with the vineyards falling into neglect and little more than 'plonk' for daily consumption being produced. A halt was called to this neglect after World War II.
The vineyards lie between the 44th and 45th parallel. This latitude guarantees a fine, full-bodied wine in the northern hemisphere.
Other important influences on the success of the vineyards is their position midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. This protects them from the moist influence of the westerly winds and from the generally rainy autumn weather of the Mediterranean climate, so that the grapes can ripen fully. There are two different soil types for Cahors: the valley of the Lot has underlying chalk with a topsoil of alluvium with outcrops of boulders and scree; and the chalk uplands or Causses with a fairly shallow upper layer of stones and marl.
Only red wine is produced in Cahors. The basic grape variety is the Auxerrois, which is also known elsewhere as Cot Noir. This must be a minimum 70 per cent of the vines in order to qualify for AC Cahors status. The Auxerrois imparts the backbone to this French wine, the strong tannin, its colour, and its potential for ageing.
Traditional Cahors red is made using solely Auxerrois or this grape combined with Tannat (known from Madiran and Irouleguy) which has many of the characteristics of Auxerrois. The more modern style of wine often contains a substantial amount of Merlot, which makes this French wine more rounded, more comforting, and more aromatic.
The modern style Cahors is best drunk while young. Its tannin makes it the perfect accompaniment for goose and duck. Drink this good french wine at 14°C (57.2°F).
The tradition-style Cahors is much broader and complex. If drunk while young this French wine is dominated by tannin so it is better to wait five to ten years with better wines. These are rounder, velvet soft, fullbodied, and powerful. The bouquet is much finer when more mature. Drink this French wine at 16°C (60.60.8°F).
Although vines have been grown for wine in Hungary since Celtic times - before the Roman invasion - it was the Magyars in the 9th century who increased the vineyard acreage and production. Many of the vineyards can trace their history back centuries, and some as far back as the 12th century. The Tokaj- Hagyalja region not only produces Hungary’s most famous wine, but is home to some of the oldest vineyards which were planted at the end of the 9th century. Phylloxera hit Hungary in the 1880s and destroyed three quarters of the vineyards. Those which survived were mostly planted in very sandy soil, through which the phylloxera bug cannot travel.
Italy is a long and narrow peninsula in the form of a thigh-high wading boot. The island of Sicily that is shaped like a bunch of grapes lies off the toe of the boot with the larger island of Sardinia above it.
Italian wine-growing has clearly defined areas in the same way as France and Spain. Wine-growing takes place throughout the peninsula except in the highest mountains. In the north of the country the Alps run from west to east. while the Apennines run down the country from the centre to the south from north to south. The mountains, which form the back bone of the country, do account though for about 40% of the area cultivated by vines. Vineyards can be found in every sheltered valley. Between the two areas of mountains is the fertile Po valley. Although there are countless micro climates throughout Italian vineyards, in general terms the north has a continental climate while the south enjoys a Mediterranean climate. The vineyards are never far from the sea so that extremes of temperature are moderated. In broad terms, the geology of the north is chalk bearing while the south and Sicily is of volcanic origin.
Grape varieties and types of wine Italy is a veritable labyrinth of vineyards from which the enthusiastic wine connoisseur can discover more than 2,000 different types of grape. Most of these grapes have been growing in the peninsula for almost 3,000 years. There are ancient native grapes but also vines that were introduced by the Greeks and then more modern varieties, which mainly originate from France. Italy has a total of about 14 DOCG wine denominations, 270 DOC denominations, and 115 IGT wines. When you consider that most production areas make white, rose, and red wines and that some denominated areas may use 20 different varieties of grapes it becomes obvious that it is impossible to give a complete survey of all Italian wines. This book will concentrate on the most popular wines and where possible mention the others.
Virtually every type of wine that exists is to be found in Italy from superb dry sparkling wines (spumante), made in the same traditional way as in Champagne, or by the charmatlcuve-close (sealed tank) method; or seductive sweet sparkling Moscato wine; dry white wine that is fresh, light and fruity or fullbodied white wine that is cask aged in small French barriques;
Quite a few small-scale Dutch growers in The Netherlands also make their own ‘wine’ just as the Belgian growers but much of that originates from grape extract or grapes grown under glass which falls outside the scope of this wine website.
This The Netherlands wine that interests us is that made from grapes picked from genuine vineyards. The Netherlands has at least 100 small vineyards plus some ten larger professional scale vineyards of more than one hectare. A guild of vineyard proprietors has been in existence in The Netherlands for at least seven years. This fulfils a mainly advisory rather than controlling function.
France's longest river, the Loire, (approx. 1,012 km/632 long) has its source in the Ardeche. The wild mountain stream first flows northwards towards Orleans where it turns with a broad sweeping bend to the left into a majestic river as it then calmly proceeds towards the sea. The valley of the Loire displays a constantly changing face. The French vineyards are spread out from the flat land near the banks and on gently undulating hills alongside forests and every type of agriculture. Its nickname of 'Le jardin de la France' (the garden of France) comes from the colourful fields of flowers.
The vineyards of Tursan are situated on the borders of Les Landes, an extensive area that these days is covered with pines but was once marsh and sand dunes. The other neighbours are Gascony and Bearn. The soil of the 500 hectares of vineyards here is a mixture of clay and sand with some chalk and sandstone. The best vineyards are situated on hills of broken chalk. Approximately half the production is of white French wine with the rest being rose and red.
Tursan white is made with the Baroque grape, supplemented with a maximum of 10 per cent of Gros Manseng and Sauvignon. This French wine is fresh, fruity, and very aromatic with a very pleasing taste. Drinking temperature for this French wine: 8-10°C (46.4- 50°F) .
This rose French wine is pale, fresh, dry, and very delicious. It is made using Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Pranc. For a good taste drink this French wine at temperature : 10-12°C (50- 53.6°F).
The red French wine is made with a minimum 60 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Pranc supplemented with a maximum 40% Tannat. This French wine is full-bodied , rounded, and comforting with great finesse, charm, and great aromatic properties. Drink this French wine at 16°C (60.8°F).
Madiran was certainly known a century before the birth of Christ. Here too the success of the local wine results from the input of Benedictine monks.
After an extremely dark period during which Madiran seemed to have been wiped from the wine menu, a saviour appeared in the form of Alain Brumont, a modest, stubborn, ambitious, but charming and friendly son of a local winegrower. He bought the abandoned Montus estate, and replanted it with the traditional Tannat grapes, that once imparted their charm to Madiran French wines. The quality of the vineyards and the vines was the foremost issue with high quality standards and low yields. The true Madiran was reborn. In less than 15 years this shiny knight of the Madiran ensured that it had become one of the best known red wines of France. This is a huge achievement.
Wine-growing in Madiran
The 1,100 hectares of vineyards of Madiran are sited on calciferous clay interspersed with areas of poorer and stony soil. Madiran wine is produced with Tannat, possibly supplemented with Per Servadou, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Pranc, which mellow the harshness of the Tannat. Madiran wine is full of tannin which needs at least 2-4 years maturing in the bottle (and at least 10 years for the best wines) in order to develop its full charm.
The best Madiran can certainly be kept for 20- 30 years. Madiran is the stereotype for masculine French wine: sturdy, full-bodied, substantial, sensual, and fleshy. When drunk young (after at least two years) a Madiran is very fruity but the tannin will dominate. Drinking temperature for this French wine: 14°C (57 .2°F).
Older Madiran has a bouquet of toast, coffee, cocoa, herbs, vanilla, preserved fruit, liquorice, and much more. Drink this French wine at 16°C (60.8°F).
This association brings together about a hundred crus of the Médoc, Graves, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Sauternes, and Barsac. These cru, whether classified or not, have joined up to promote their wines. The Union Charter, of which an extract is quoted here, states the philosophy of its members:
“A Grand Cru of the Union is located on a particular terroir, limited and original, capable of producing a highly personalized wine with exceptional aging potential. Attached to this terroir are storage tanks and cellars equipped for traditional methods of vinification and maturation, supervised by the proprietor of the estate.
England and Wales do not have geographically defined official places of origin for their wines. Of the approximately 450 vineyards (1,035 hectares), about 95% are sited in England and the rest in Wales.
Those 1,035 hectares of vineyards are run by 115 wineries, chiefly in South East and South West England, Wessex (the west), and East Anglia (the east). More than 90% of English and Welsh wines are white. The most northerly vineyard is Withworth Hell, not far from the Scottish border. The northern wineries are often provided with grapes from more southerly vineyards. Northern England and the Midlands or Mercia forms a triangle in which Whitworth Hall, Wroxeter, and Windmill are situated. Most of the English vineyards are not truly commercial. Wine can only be made seriously in the most sheltered and warmest places.
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