A Brief Introduction to France and French Wine

There is no other country in the world with a reputation for fine wine and cuisine which matches that of France. When people think of wine, their minds are more often than not immediately drawn to the rolling landscapes of France, with its varied terrain and fantastic range of wines, many of which regularly stay at the very top of global wine charts as a result of their quality, flavour, aroma and character. But how did France become this worldwide trendsetter for fine wine? How has French culture become so deeply entwined with viticulture, and how have their wine production techniques adapted so well throughout the ages to produce wines of singular quality today? The answer lies in their history, the dozens of generations of wine producing families and businesses improving and experimenting with their local grape varieties, and the excellent terroir the country supplies.

Ancient History of French Wine

Although there is some evidence to suggest that the pre-Roman inhabitants of France had some hand in the cultivation of French vines, it was the unstoppable influence of the great empires of Greece and Rome which really made France into the wine producing country it is today. The Roman Empire practically ran on wine, with every man, woman and slave entitled to their daily allowance, and as such, as the empire expanded to Western Europe, thousands upon thousands of grapevines were planted in any area which could support them.

The mineral-rich soils of the French plains and valleys proved to be excellent for growing both native and imported grape varieties, and over hundreds of years, the landscape of France was transformed for the purposes of grape growing and wine production. Fast forward a couple of centuries, and it was the Catholic church which took control of wine production in France, as wine was increasingly used in religious ceremonies, and was a great source of income for the ever-growing powers of the church.

Modern History of French Wine

As the centuries passed, French wine became the darling of the royal courts of France and her neighbouring countries. It was considered fashionable, elegant, sophisticated to drink fine wines grown from the same regions which continue to produce fine wines today, and by the 18th century, the region of Bordeaux and the chateauxs that can be still found there was famed throughout Europe for the singular quality of its wines.

However, in the 19th century, French wine suffered from a country-wide blight which ground the wine industry to a temporary halt, with many of grape varieties becoming almost extinct on native soils. Thanks to a world-wide effort to bring new strains of indigenous grapes back to France from the New World, the country was soon on its feet once more, and quickly re-established itself as the world’s most successful wine producing country.

The 20th century saw a whole range of new laws and regulations regarding wine quality, and attempts were made to keep the characteristics of each region strong and authentic. Following the second world war, the A.O.C rules were put in place, and since then, the quality of French wine has been carefully regulated to ensure that the diverse regions of the country continue to impress the world market. willamette wine tours


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