Friday, March 29, 2013

Why Are There So Many Wine Regions in France?

In the Middle Ages, the monks in France grew lots of wine. Through a variety of methods, they acquired large plots of arable land, and filled them with vines. As they experimented with wine-making, they carefully documented where the best grapes grew, and broke down their vineyards into very precise plots of land. After the French Revolution, the Church lost most of its land holdings, but farmers kept the plots of land as laid out by the monks.

French wine regions can be broken up into increasingly specific grades:
  • Region: The major AOCs of France, extending mostly along the river valleys.
  • Village: Within the AOCs there are villages known for the quality of their wine, with specific protected status.
  • Vineyard: Within villages, the monks laid out very precise vineyards that have kept their status through the centuries, even as they have changed hands through the generations.
Any of this information can show up on the label, in addition to the specifics of the winemaker, so that makes for a lot of names that a French wine connoisseur must learn. This is one reason French wine can feel so confusing.

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