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The first traces of Vines date back long before the Gallo-Roman era. Vines fossils have been found in the layers of the Quaternary which can lead us to say that it existed in the region before the advent of man. It would have given subsequently rise to the Vitis Vinifera variety of wild vine, ancestor of our current varieties, the ''vitis vinefera occidentalis''. Viticulture as we know it, started with the Romans invasions, around 50BC.
Today, there are 4,700 winegrowers in Alsace: 20% independent growers, 39% cooperatives and 41% traders producers. The size of the vineyard is 15 000 hectares classified as AOC (there is no IGP). The amount of wine produced was 1,150,000 hectoliters in 2009 (equivalent to 150 million bottles). Production in the region is 70% of dry white wines and sweet white wines, 20% of sparkling wines and 10% of red.
Wine is produced in the departments of Bas-Rhin (67) and Haut-Rhin (68). The wine route stretches 170km from north (Strasbourg) to south (Mulhouse), along the Ill river, between the Vosges Mountains (west), and the Rhine river (east). The vineyards are concentrated in a narrow strip, running in a roughly north-south direction, on the lower eastern slopes of the Vosges, at altitudes of 175–420 m.
There are 3 Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC): Alsace (78%), Cremant d’Alsace (18%), Alsace Grand Cru (4%). The average yield varies from max. 55hl / ha for the Grands Crus to 80 hl / ha for Crémant. The first AOC was recognized by the INAO in November 1945.
Because of predominantly westerly winds, the Vosges mountains tend to shelter Alsace from rain and maritime influence, and the region is therefore rather dry and sunny. The region climate is semi-continental, (average temperature 11°C, 500mm rainfall, 1600h sunshine). While the slope down the Vosges is generally east-facing, many of the best sites are south-west to south-east facing, and benefit from extra sun exposure.
The soil that make up the vineyard have an impressive diversity and richness. The vineyard is planted on calcareous soils, granite, schist, gneiss and sandstone. The main grape varieties are for white wine: Riesling (22%), Gewurztraminer (20%), Pinot Blanc (21%), Pinot Gris (15.5%), Sylvaner (7%), Muscat (2,5%). And Pinot noir for red wine (10%). The Grand Cru decreed in 1975 combines the characteristics of each of these territories to the vines. So there are 51 Grands Crus, each one of them unique.
Alsace is known for being the only French wine-growing region with a long practice in varietal labeling, which was a German tradition. There is a legal requirement for bottling Alsace wine in tall bottles commonly called "flûtes d'Alsace" or "Rhine wine bottle“ which is also traditional in many German regions.
Alsace produces some of the most noted dry Rieslings in the world as well as highly aromatic Gewürztraminer wines.
The Bourgogne winegrowing region, a place with a unique heritage, is ideally located on a primary commercial axis linking Northern Europe with the Mediterranean Basin, a historical trading route since the Middle-ages.
The Bourgogne winegrowing region is 150km long and enjoys a climate that is particularly well-suited to vine cultivation. The convergence of Mediterranean, continental and oceanic influences plays a major role in terms of the aromatic richness and global reputation of its wines.
The Climats and lieux-dits give Bourgogne wines their unique identity. Their names bear witness to the region’s rich history. Their origins lie in the environment, local heritage, savoir-faire (know-how) and human history. The Climats confer their own unique organoleptic qualities onto the wines of Bourgogne, such as their appearance, aromas, flavors and texture.
For centuries, the reputation of Bourgogne wines was driven by the monks of Cîteaux, and then by the Dukes of Bourgogne.
In 1935, the National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), made official the usage of the word “Climat” and began using it in legal texts applying to all Bourgogne appellations. The Climats are a sign of excellence and on 4 July 2015, the Climats were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Today there are 29,000 hectares of vines planted in Burgundy, accounting for 4% of all commercial winegrowing in France. The average production is 170 million bottles per year, 59% white wines, 30% red wines and 11% sparkling wines. The Grand Crus vineyards represent only 1% of the Burgundy production, while the Villages and Premiers Crus represent 46% and the Regional appellation Bourgogne represents 53% of the production.
Bordeaux has a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares,making it the largest wine growing area in France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world. 89% of wine produced in Bordeaux is red, with sweet white wines, dry whites, and also (in much smaller quantities) rosé and sparkling wines collectively making up the remainder. Bordeaux wine is made by more than 8,500 producers or "chateaux". There are 54 appellations of Bordeaux wine.
Red grape varieties
Early-ripening Merlot is the most widely-planted grape variety in Bordeaux. It expresses its full potential on cool soils, producing smooth wines with a great deal of color, roasted aromas, and flavors reminiscent of red fruit (such as plums) and figs after ageing in bottle for several years.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a traditional late-ripening local variety. The gravely soil of the Left Bank provides the necessary warmth for optimum ripening. This grape variety contributes structure to the wines as well as hearty tannins and a flavor profile including liquorice, black fruit (such as blackcurrant), and elegant aromas of forest floor with age.
Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is an excellent complementary grape variety that rarely makes up the majority of the final blend. It adds freshness, finesse, and aromatic complexity as well as hints of raspberry and violet
White grape varieties
Sauvignon Blanc, except in rare instances, is the most important variety for dry white wines. It provides the wines with the necessary acidity as well as minerality, aromatic freshness, and varietal aromas, such as citrus, boxwood, and fig leaves.
Sémillon is the main grape variety for semi-sweet and sweet white wines and is almost always a component of dry white wines as well. It contributes roundness, richness, and apricot and honey aromas. When affected by «noble rot», it develops an inimitable bouquet.
Muscadelle, which plays a secondary role in the blend for both dry and sweet white wines (generally no more than 10%), is a fragile but very interesting variety with musky floral overtones.
Cahors is anAppellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) which forms part of the South West France wine region. The dominant grape variety in AOC Cahors wines is Malbec, which must make up a minimum of 70% of the wine, and which is known locally as "Côt", "Côt Noir" or "Auxerrois".
There are 4,200 hectares (10,000 acres) of Cahors vineyards, with at planting density of at least 4000 vines per ha.
Most of the vineyards are located on the gravel terraces within the meanders formed by the river Lot.
The climate of Cahors is mainly influenced by the Atlantic, with hot summers and wet winters. In contrast to Bordeaux, it is also influenced by the Mediterranean. The river Lot is an important factor for the micro-climate in the vineyards, especially as the nearby Massif Central may occasionally cause winters with severe frost.
Champagne wines have been known since the 9th century and have become famous since the 18th century after their quality improved thanks to Dom Perignon.
The specificity of the terroir has helped select the most adapted grape varieties.
Pinot noir, a black grape, is grown on 38% of the area and main variety on the mountain of Reims because of the chalky soil and cooler temperature. Pinot Noir produces structured wines; it also gives them body and pungency.
Pinot Meunier is present on 32% of the area. This sturdy variety is more adapted to clayish soils like in the Great Marne Valley and can better cope with tougher climatic conditions for the vine. Characterized by its fruity flavour and intense bouquet, it adds suppleness and roundness to the wines.
Chardonnay grows on 30% of the vineyards, mostly on the Côte des Blancs slopes. It offers delicate citrus and floral aromas, and gives great finesse to wine.
Champagne area wss defined in 1927 by law and covers 34,000 ha in four regions:
- the mountain of Reims;
- the Marne valley;
- the "Cote des Blancs";
- the "Cote des Bar".
The specific nature and the variety of Loire wines come from the climate and the type of soils. The five main grape varieties (Sauvignon blanc, Chenin, Cabernet franc, Gamay and Pinot noir) are to be found over the entire region.
The vines stretch over varied landscapes: gravel terraces in Chinon and Bourgueil, hillsides and plateaux in Touraine, valleys in the Gien area, and steep slopes in Sancerre…
The reds boast deep colours and fruity aromas, the whites offer subtle, intense scents, the rosés are fresh and light, not forgetting the sparkling wines with their fine bubbles.
The Languedoc vineyard essentially cuts across three French counties, from the Aude to the Gard, passing through the Hérault, extending even to the Western Pyrenees with the new local AOC Languedoc Wine region.
This entire geographical zone, hosting 18 AOCs, comprises a total of 40,000 hectares [≈ 100,000 acres]. Needless to say that this vast area stages a wide variety of land types, each one having its own soil, climate and vines, creating various combinations, each one revealing a unique wine. Many a contrast exists between the harshness of the Pyrenean and Massif Central foothills and the gentleness of the Mediterranean shores.
The sea brings sandy, limey or even clayey soils. Where crests and vales emerge, the soil takes on a shale or calcareous clay aspect with vast pebble terraces. The climate here is generally Mediterranean, though the further from the coast, the more we find oceanic characteristics. The Languedoc vineyard reflects such diverse influences.
Aside from the more well-known Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault grapes, we find other grape types (Cot, Malbec, Chenin and Rolle, for example), only known to a selected few.
Hence, the Languedoc wine-growers realise that they possess abundant soil types, not forgetting that the vineyard has been substantially restructured over the past 30 years in order to encourage typically-Mediterranean grape types alongside an enhanced adaptation of the traditional types, characterisation of the soil types, controlled wine-growing techniques and related research, thereby providing structured and well-balanced wines.
The Rhone Valley was the result of a geological clash between the Massif Central and the Alps, creating a rift valley. The valley’s soils consists of four different types of rock: granite, sandy silica, limestone and clay. The bedrock plays an essential role in the way in which the growing vines are supplied with water, determining the varied aromas and flavours of Rhone wines.
the Rhone vineyards, some of the very oldest in the world, became famous under the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, it was the influence of the Church which gave fresh impetus to the wine industry when the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon and the popes, great lovers of the local wines, planted extensive vineyards around the city.
Concerned for the quality of its wines, the Rhone Valley played an active role in the establishment of French wine-industry appellations. In the 1930s, Baron Le Roy defined the terms of reference of an "Appellation d'Origine Controllee" (AOC) - limits of the growing area, grape varieties, local practices, methods of cultivation, minimum alcoholic content, harvesting period - which Chateauneuf-du-Pape got in 1933.
Forming a corridor between the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, the Rhone Valley extends over six French départements. The wines grown between Vienne and Avignon, between the Massif Central, the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, draw their strength from the sun and caressing wind, and from the determination of the region’s many wine-growers to produce quality wines while respecting the environment… These wines, crafted and inspired by a great variety of grape varieties and terroirs, give pleasure to wine-lovers in all parts of the world.
South East of the Rhone Valley starts the Provence region of which Les Baux-de-Provence is one of the most famous villages.
Only 12 Estates are spread around the rock on which the village was built. The wines of Les Baux can be defined as much in terms of the unique, multi-faceted character of the soil as by the choices made by the men who work it.
Care for the environment is central to the work of the vignerons who, more than 50 years ago, founded the great vineyards in the Baux Valley. Nowadays, A.O.C Les Baux-de-Provence wines are unusual in that the grapes are grown using organic or biodynamic methods over 85% of their geographical area, naturally protected and dried by the mistral wind.
Grapes: 100% Riesling Origin: Villages of Riquewihr, Zellenberg and Ribeauvillé. Vivid straw colour. A bouquet of flowers on the nose. Bright and juicy on the palate with the fine acidity of citrus fruits. Ginger, peach and tangerine shining on the persistent finish. Certified organic and biodynamic Ageing potential: 10 to 12 years. Annual Production...
Grapes: 100% Gewurztraminer Origin: Villages of Beblenheim and Zellenberg. Bright gold-tinged straw colour. Exotic aromas of rose petals and litchi, spices and honey. Rich and dense with an opulent mouthfeel, off-dry (27g/l residual sugar). Ideally, served with the great cuisine of Alsace, such as foies gras, or asian food, indian curry... Certified...
Grapes: 100% Riesling Origin: Village of Zellenberg. "Grafenreben" is a vineyard on a slope of clay and chalk that faces southeast, in prolongation of Grand Cru "Schoenenbourg". Bright gold colour. Aromas of citrus, stone fruits, lime and chamomile. Juicy and multi-layered on the palate, both intense and mineral, with nuances of stone fruits and walnut...
Grapes: 100% Gewurztraminer. Origin: Villages of Kientzheim and Sigolsheim, steep slopes and relatively high altitude, 350 to 400 metres, facing due south. The terroir is marl, chalk and sandstone. Bright gold color. Refined nuances of lemon and jasmine add lift to more intense aromas of sweet spices, Mirabelle, orange oil and rose petal. The palate is...
Grapes: 100% Pinot Gris. Origin: Villages of Kientzheim and Sigolsheim, steep slopes and relatively high altitude, 350 to 400 metres, facing due south. The terroir is marl, chalk and sandstone. Vibrant straw colour. Deep aromas of yellow peach and baked apple pie. Broad on the palate with ripe pear and apple flavors. Not exactly dry, but lively and fresh...
Certified Organic. 100% Syrah. Deep ruby red, this Syrah offers scent of violet and blackpepper, a juicy palate, smooth and elegant with silky tannins. Masses of fruit and yet sufficiently full of texture. Spicy & intense... What a delicious glass of wine! Soil: loamy, chalky marls with sandstone. Yields: 40hl/ha. Annual production 4,000 bottles....
100% Syrah Dark purple red. Intense aromas of pepper, black berry, cocoa, chicory. The palate has a good, crisp spark in it, rocks with black fruits at its core and grainy punch of tannin. The stems play a handsome role, and give it kick and weight. Beautiful wine, to drink by 2020. Organic farming, Manual harvest. 8 years old vines. Soil: Gore,...
GRAPES: 100% Petit Verdot FARMING: Certified Organic CONSERVATION: Drink it now or keep it for 5/6 years. QUANTITY: 2 700 bottles. TASTING NOTES: Peppery and floral, refined and complex. Planted in 2005 with 4600 stocks/ha on the Majelus terroir, a pine tree next to it, it’s the smallest plot of the domain. For now, as we just met, the petit verdot seems...
100% Fer Servadou. Certified Organic. 7,000 bottles produced. Floral, smooth and complex, Fer Servadou is a name that will evoke the sweet scents of Southern France for some and an obscure grape variety for others. Fer Servadou is called Braucol when it enters the composition of Gaillac wines; it is also the exclusive grape variety of wines from Marcillac...
GRAPES: 100% Viognier. VINE GROWING: Certified Organic. TASTING NOTES: The nose is aromatic and spicy, fresh and vibrant. The palate is dense with aromas of peach, yellow plum and honey. SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve fresh at 10 -12°C with fish, seafood or as an aperitif. CONSERVATION: Drink it now for its freshness, but can be aged for 3 years....
It is always a good time to celebrate with a fine selection of Grower Champagne from our favourite producer Gabriel Pagin Fils. Start with a Blanc de Blancs Millesime 2006, 100% Chardonnay, refined and elegant, move on to the Grande Reserve, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, well balanced, and finish with a beautiful Carte d'Or, Blanc de Noirs, full...
Grape Variety: 100% Grenache. A beautiful dark ruby color, a nose of leather, blond tobacco, licorice. A framed and structured palate that contrasts with silky tannins, raspberry, spice, a long finish… A wine that can be drunk now or kept for at least a decade. Impressive! Vine: over 95 years old. Yield: 28hl/ha. Soil: clay limestone Organic farming. Hand...