French wine

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Posted by r2d2 03/03/2009 @ 09:09

Tags : french wine, wine, food and wine, leisure

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French wine

A French wine label, from a Bordeaux château. From the top down it says:[19] 1. that the producer was classified in the 1855 classification 2. the name of the château (Haut Batailley) 3. the appellation of the wine (Pauillac) 4. the vintage 5. another mentioning of the appellation including the crucial words "appellation contrôlée" 6. its origin of production (France - Bordeaux) 7. the alcohol content 8. the producer's name 9. the volume of content 10. that the wine was estate bottled (mis en bouteille au chateau)

French wine is produced in several regions throughout France, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year (7–8 billion bottles). France has the world's largest wine production ahead of Italy and the second-largest total vineyard area (behind Spain). French wine exports make up 34.01% of the world market share, ahead of Italian (18.03%) Australian (10.24%) and Spanish (9.18%) wine.

French wine traces its history to the 6th century BCE, with many of France's regions dating their wine-making history to Roman times. The wines produced today range from expensive high-end wines sold internationally, to more modest wines usually only seen within France.

Two concepts central to higher end French wines are the notion of “terroir”, which links the style of the wines to the specific locations where the grapes are grown and the wine is made, and the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system. Appellation rules closely define which grape varieties and winemaking practices are allowed in each of France's several hundred geographically defined appellations, which can cover entire regions, individual villages or even specific vineyards.

France is the source of many grape varieties (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah) that are now planted throughout the world, as well as several wine-making practices and styles of wine that are copied and imitated in other producing countries. Although some producers have benefited in recent years from rising prices and increased demand for some of the prestige wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, the French wine industry as a whole has been influenced by a decline in domestic consumption as well as growing competition from both the New World and other European countries.

French wine originated in the 6th century BCE, with the colonization of Southern Gaul by Greek settlers. Viticulture soon flourished with the founding of the Greek colony of Marseille. The Roman Empire licensed regions in the south to produce wines. St. Martin of Tours (316-397) was actively engaged in both spreading Christianity and planting vineyards. During the Middle Ages, monks maintained vineyards and, more importantly, conserved wine-making knowledge and skills during that often turbulent period. Monasteries had the resources, security, and motivation to produce a steady supply of wine both for celebrating mass and generating income. During this time, the best vineyards were owned by the monasteries and their wine was considered to be superior. Over time the nobility developed extensive vineyards. However, the French Revolution led to the confiscation of many of the vineyards owned by the Church and others.

The advance of the French wine industry stopped abruptly as first Mildew and then Phylloxera spread throughout the country, indeed across all of Europe, leaving vineyards desolate. Then came an economic downturn in Europe followed by two world wars, and the French wine industry didn't fully recover for decades. Meanwhile competition had arrived and threatened the treasured French "brands" such as Champagne and Bordeaux. This resulted in the establishment in 1935 of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée to protect French interests. Large investments, the economic upturn following World War 2 and a new generation of Vignerons yielded results in the 1970s and the following decades, creating the modern French wines we know today.

In 1935 numerous laws were passed to control the quality of French wine. They established the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée system, which is governed by a powerful oversight board (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine - INAO). Consequently, France has one of the oldest systems for protected designation of origin for wine in the world, and strict laws concerning winemaking and production. Many other European systems are modelled after it. The word "appellation" has been put to use by other countries, sometimes in a much looser meaning. As European Union wine laws have been modeled after those of the French, this trend is likely to continue with further EU expansion.

The total French production for the 2005 vintage was 43.9 million hl (plus an additional 9.4 million hl destined for various brandies), of which 28.3% was white and 71.7% was red or rosé. The proportion of white wine is slightly higher for the higher categories, with 34.3% of the AOC wine being white.

In years with less favourable vintage conditions than 2005, the proportion of AOC wine tends to be a little lower. The proportion of Vin de table has decreased considerably over the last decades, while the proportion of AOC has increased somewhat and Vin de Pays has increased considerably.

In 2005 there were 472 different wine AOCs in France.

All common styles of wine — red, rosé, white (dry, semi-sweet and sweet), sparkling and fortified — are produced in France. In most of these styles, the French production ranges from cheap and simple versions to some of the world's most famous and expensive examples. An exception is French fortified wines, which tend to be relatively unknown outside France.

Numerous grape varieties are cultivated in France, including both internationally well-known and obscure local varieties. In fact, most of the so-called "international varieties" are of French origin, or became known and spread because of their cultivation in France. Since French appellation rules generally restrict wines from each region, district or appellation to a small number of allowed grape varieties, there are in principle no varieties that are commonly planted throughout all of France.

Traditionally, many French wines have been blended from several grape varieties. Varietal white wines have been, and are still, more common than varietal red wines.

In many respects, French wines have more of a regional than a national identity, as evidenced by different grape varieties, production methods and different classification systems in the various regions. Quality levels and prices varies enormously, and some wines are made for immediate consumption while other are meant for long-time cellaring.

If there is one thing that most French wines have in common, it is that most styles have developed as wines meant to accompany food, be it a quick baguette, a simple bistro meal, or a full-fledged multi-course menu. Since the French tradition is to serve wine with food, wines have seldom been developed or styled as "bar wines" for drinking on their own, or to impress in tastings when young.

The concept of Terroir, which refers to the unique combination of natural factors associated with any particular vineyard is important to french vignerons. It includes such factors as soil, underlying rock, altitude, slope of hill or terrain, orientation toward the sun, and microclimate (typical rain, winds, humidity, temperature variations, etc.). Even in the same area, no two vineyards have exactly the same terroir, thus being the base of the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) system that has been model for appellation and wine laws across the globe. In other words: when the same grape variety is planted in different regions, it can produce wines that are significantly different from each other. In France the concept of terroir manifests itself most extremely in the Burgundy region. The amount of influence and the scope that falls under the description of terroir has been a controversial topic in the wine industry.

Many French wine labels contain a wealth of information for the knowledgeable reader (see example to the right). With the exception of wines from the Alsace region and their Germanic influence, France had no tradition of varietal labelling of wines. Varietal labelling was not allowed under appellation rules. Since New World wines made the varietal names "household names" on the export market, in the late 20th century, more French wineries started to use varietal labelling. In general, varietal labelling is most common for the Vin de Pays category. Some AOC wines in "simpler" categories are also allowed to display varietal names, but these wines are rather few. For most AOC wines, if varietal names are found, it will be in small print on a back label.

In the shown example, readers can, depending on their level of knowledge of French wine, deduce what sort of wine is in the bottle. The 1855 classification indicates (but does not guarantee) a high grade of quality. Then comes the producer's name in large letters. The label reveals the appellation as "Pauillac" and that furthermore, this is a Bordeaux wine. Finally, the label indicates that the wine was produced in France.

Alsace is primarily a white-wine region, though some red, rosé, sparkling and sweet wines are also produced. It is situated in eastern France on the river Rhine and borders Germany, a country with which it shares many grape varieties as well as a long tradition of varietal labelling.

Bordeaux is a large region on the Atlantic coast, which has a long history of exporting its wines overseas. This is primarily a red wine region, famous for the wines Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Haut-Brion from the Medoc sub-region; Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Ausone in St Emilion; and Petrus and Chateau Le Pin in Pomerol. The red wines produced are usually blended, from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and sometimes Cabernet Franc. Bordeaux also makes dry and sweet white wines, including some of the world's most famous sweet wines from the Sauternes appellation, such as Chateau d'Yquem.

There are two main grape varieties used in Burgundy - Chardonnay for white wines, and Pinot Noir for red. White wines are also sometimes made from Aligoté, and other grape varieties will also be found occasionally.

Champagne, situated in eastern France, close to Belgium and Luxembourg, is the coldest of France's major wine regions and home its major sparkling wine. Champagne wines can be both white and rosé. A small amount of still wine is produced in Champagne (as AOC Coteaux Champenois) of which some can be red wine.

Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean the wines of which are primarily consumed on the island itself. It has nine AOC regions and an island-wide vin de pays designation and is still developing its production methods as well as its regional style.

Jura, a small region in the mountains close to Switzerland where some unique wine styles, notably Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille, are produced. The region covers six appellations and is related to Burgundy through its extensive use of the burgundian grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, though other varieties are used. It also shares cool climate with Burgundy.

Languedoc-Roussillon, by far the largest region in terms of vineyard surface, and the region in which much of France's cheap bulk wines have been produced. While still the source of much of France's and Europe's overproduction, the so-called "wine lake", Languedoc-Roussillon is also the home of some of France's most innovative producers. They try to combine traditional French wine and international styles and do not hesitate to take lessons from the New World. Much Languedoc-Roussillon wine is sold as Vin de Pays d'Oc.

Provence, in the southeast and close to the Mediterranean. It is perhaps the warmest wine region of France and produces mainly rosé and red wine. It covers eight major appellations led by the Provence flagship, Bandol. Some Provence wine can be compared with the Southern Rhône wines as they share both grapes and, to some degree, style and climate. Provence also has a classification of its most prestigious estates, much like Bordeaux.

Rhone Valley, primarily a red-wine region in southeastern France, along the Rhône River. The styles and varietal composition of northern and southern Rhône differ, but both parts compete with Bordeaux as traditional producers of red wines.

Savoy or Savoie, primarily a white-wine region in the Alps close to Switzerland, where many grapes unique to this region are cultivated.

There are also several smaller production areas situated outside these major regions. Many of those are VDQS wines, and some, particularly those in more northern locations, are remnants of production areas that were once larger.

France has traditionally been the largest consumer of its own wines. However, wine consumption has been dropping in France for 40 years. During the decade of the 1990s, per capita consumption dropped by nearly 20 percent. Therefore, French wine producers must rely increasingly on foreign markets. However, consumption has also been dropping in other potential markets such as Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The result has been a continuing wine glut, often called the wine lake. This has led to the distillation of wine into industrial alcohol as well as a government program to pay farmers to pull up their grape vines through vine pull schemes. A large part of this glut is caused by the re-emergence of Languedoc wine.

Immune from these problems has been the market for Champagne as well as the market for the expensive ranked or classified wines. However, these constitute only about five percent of French production.

French regulations in 1979 created simple rules for the then-new category of Vin de pays. The Languedoc-Roussillon region has taken advantage of its ability to market varietal wines.

L'Office national interprofessionnel des vins, abbreviated ONIVINS, is a French association of vintners.

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History of French wine

As Minister of the Interior, Jean-Antoine Chaptal played an important role in helping the French wine industry recover from the French Revolution.

The history of French wine spans a period of at least 2600 years dating to the founding of Massalia in the 6th century BC by the Phoenicians with the possibility that viticulture existed much earlier. The Romans did much to spread viticulture across the land they knew as Gaul, encouraging the planting of vines in areas that would become the well known wine regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, Languedoc, Loire Valley and the Rhone.

Over the course of its history, the French wine industry would be influenced and driven by the commercial interests of the lucrative English market and Dutch traders. Prior to the French Revolution, the Catholic Church was one of France's largest vineyard owners-wielding considerable influence in regions such as Champagne and Burgundy where the concept of terroir first took root. Aided by these external and internal influences, the French wine industry has been the pole bearer for the world wine industry for most of its history with many of its wines considered the benchmark for their particular style. The late 20th and early 21st century brought considerable change--earmarked by a changing global market and competition from other European wine regions like Italy and Spain as well as emerging New World wine producers like California, Australia and South America.

There is archaeological evidence to suggest that the Celts first cultivated the grape vine, Vitis vinifera, in Gaul. Grape pips have been found throughout France, pre-dating Greek and Roman cultural influences, with some examples found near Lake Geneva being over 12,000 years old. A major turning-point in the wine history of Gaul came with the founding of Massalia in the 6th century BC by Greek immigrants from Phocae in Asia Minor. By the 2nd century BC, Massalia (by then known as Massilia) came under Roman influence as a vital port on the trade route linking Rome to Roman settlements at Saguntum (near what is now modern Valencia in Spain). Roman presence and influence in Massilia grew as the settlement came under attack from a succession of forces including the Ligurians, Allobroges and Arverni. Eventually the area became a Roman province first known as Provincia and later Gallia Narbonensis.

The early Greek settlers brought a distinctly Mediterranean outlook to viticulture in Gaul. To their understanding, vines grew best in the same climate and area that would support olive and fig trees, therefore most of the early vineyard planting was in the warm, Mediterranean coastal areas. In 7 BC, the Greek geographer Strabo noted that the areas around Massilia and Narbo could produce the same fruits as Italy but the rest of Gaul further north could not support the olive, fig or vine. Under Roman rule, in the century and a half BC, the majority of the wine consumed in the area was required by law to be Italian in origin, as the distribution of fragments of wine amphorae found throughout Gaul after about 100 BC, especially along the coasts and rivers, suggests: some of the earliest amphorae, from the 2nd century BC, bear Iberian shipper's marks, indicating that distribution of wine predated conquest. It wasn't till the first century AD that there was record of Gaul's wine being of any note or renown. In his Natural History (book xiv), Pliny the Elder noted that in the region near Vienna (modern day Vienne in the Rhone wine region), the Allobroges produced a resinated wine that was held in esteem and commanded a high market price.

It was also during the late first century BC/early first century AD that viticulture started to spread to other areas of Gaul — beyond areas where the olive and fig would grow, where a suitable variety was found to be the biturica, the ancestor of cabernet varieties. The high demand for wine and the cost of transport from Rome or Massilia were likely motivators for this spread. Archaeological evidence dating to the reign of Augustus suggests that large numbers of amphorae were being produced near Bezier in the Narbonensis and in the Gaillac region of Southwest France. In both these areas, the presence of the evergreen holm oak, Quercus ilex, which also grows in the familiar Mediterranean climate served as a benchmark indicating an area where the climate was warm enough to ensure a reliable harvest each year.

Expansion continued into the third century AD, pushing the borders of viticulture beyond the areas of the holm oak to places such as Bordeaux in Aquitania and Burgundy, where the more marginal climate included wet, cold summers that might not produce a harvest each year. But even with the risk of an occasional lost harvest, the continuing demand for wine among the Roman and native inhabitants of Gaul made the proposition of viticulture a lucrative endeavor. By the 6th century AD, vines were planted throughout Gaul including the Loire Valley, the Île-de-France (Paris Basin) which included the areas of modern day Champagne, as well as Brittany.

The decline of the Roman Empire brought sweeping changes to Gaul, as the region was invaded by Germanic tribes from the north including the Visigoths, Burgundians and the Franks, none of whom were familiar with wine. The invaders set up kingdoms in Aquitaine, Burgundy and Île-de-France. By the time that Charlemagne established his kingdom in the late 8th century, power in France was polarised between south and north: unlike the Mediterranean south, where grapes were easy to cultivate and wine was plentiful, the more viticulturally challenged regions of the north saw wine as a luxury item and a symbol of status. The influence of the Christian Church (which had been largely permeated throughout the region since the 6th century) also enhanced the image of wine in France as it became an integral part of the sacrament of the Eucharist, though the discovery of a second-third century silver wine dipper as part of temple votive deposit at Pont-de-Leyris reminds us that wine was an integral part of pagan rites as well.

During the Carolingian era, a new system of land development emerged that was intimately tied with the spread of viticulture in Medieval France. Under this system of complant, a farmer could approach a land owner with uncultivated land with an offer to plant and tend to the area for a contracted amount of time. After the given length of time, half of the fully cultivated land would revert back to full control of the original landowner while the remaining half would become the farmer's under the condition that a percentage or "tithing" of each year's crop would be paid to the original land owner. Under this system, many areas of France were enthusiastically and efficiently planted with little cost to the land owner; such as the Poitou region near La Rochelle. The modern day Loire Valley wine of Quarts de Chaume derives its name from the use of this practice back in the 15th century when the Abbey of Ronceray d'Angers owned a large portion of uncultivated land (chaume) which it contracted out to growers in exchange for a fourth (quart) of the wine produced on the land.

In the Middle Ages, transportation of heavy wooden barrels of wine over land was a costly and risky proposition. Wine regions close to easily navigable rivers, such as the Loire and Garonne, found the possibility of trade to other regions and outside of France more attainable and profitable while more isolated and landlocked regions like Burgundy had a harder time developing much of a trade market outside their region. Port cities like Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Rouen emerged as formidable centers of commerce with the wines of Gascony, Haut Pays, Poitou and the Île-de-France. During this period, political climates and alliances played a substantial role in the trade of French wines to other European countries. The 1152 marriage of Eléonore of Aquitaine with Henry Plantagenet, the future Henry II of England, was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between Bordeaux and England. The 1295 Auld Alliance between France and Scotland against England gave the Scots ample access to French wines for themselves. At the height of its power, the Duchy of Burgundy included the southern parts of the Netherlands and Flanders--introducing the Dutch to the wines of Burgundy.

The 1305 election of Pope Clement V was followed by the move of the papacy from Rome to Avignon. During this time, the wines of the Rhone and Burgundy region received a higher profile due to their preference by the Avignonese popes. When Petrarch wrote to Pope Urban V, pleading for his return to Rome, he noted that one obstacle to his request was that the best Burgundy wines could not be had south of the Alps. Following the prominence of Burgundy wine during the Avignonese papacy, the Valois Dukes of Burgundy took a keen interest in leveraging the region's wines into power and status. The Duchy would become one of the most powerful in France and very nearly it own kingdom--fueled in part by the prestige of the region's wines.

The 14th century was a period of peak prosperity for the Bordeaux-English wine trade that came to a close during the Hundred Year War when Gascony came `back under French control in 1453. Following the expulsion of the English, Dutch wine traders took on a more prominent role in Bordeaux. The Dutch were avid traders, buying wine from across Europe (particularly the Mediterranean countries) for trade with Hanseatic states, and were eager to capitalize on the potential of the French wine industry. For most of the 16th and 17th century, the Dutch traders would play an intimate role in the fortunes of the French wine industry. (See Influence section below).

The Age of Enlightenment saw an increase in the study and application of winemaking methods with University sponsored studies and treatise on wine related topics. In 1756 the Academy of Bordeaux invited students to write papers on the topic of clarifying wines and the advantages or disadvantages of using egg whites as a fining agent. In Burgundy, the Academy of Dijon sponsored study on ways to improve the quality of Burgundy wine. In the vineyards, vignerons began focusing more on which grape varieties performed best in different areas and augmenting their plantings to capitalize on their findings.

Following the French Revolution there was an increase in the amount of poor quality French wine being produced. Jean-Antoine Chaptal, the Minister of the Interior for Napoleon, felt that a contributing factor to this trend was the lack of knowledge among many French vignerons of the emerging technologies and winemaking practices that could improve the quality their wines. In 1801, Chaptal compiled this knowledge into a treatise Traité théorsque et pratique sur Ia culture de Ia vigne which included his advocacy of adding sugar to the wine to increase alcohol levels--a process now known as chaptalization. Chaptal treatise was a turning point in the history of wine technology as it synthesized the knowledge current to the beginning of the 19th century.

By the mid 19th century, the wine industry of France enjoyed "Golden Age" period of prosperity. A new class of consumers, the bourgeoisie, emerged as a strong market for wine and other culinary products. The Gironde region of Bordeaux, in particular, enjoyed a swell of interest from both the Parisian market as well as its steady trade with England. For the 1855 Paris Exposition, Emperor Napoleon III commissioned the Bordeaux merchants to come out with a ranking of the region's wine estate. The 1855 classification of Bordeaux would become one of the world's most famous rankings of wine estates. Wine was becoming a cornerstone of the French economy and a source of national pride as French wine enjoyed international recognition as the benchmark standards for the wine world.

It was a series of events that would bring this Golden Age of prosperity to an end. In the 19th century, scientific interest in collecting botanical species lead to the exchange of many specimens from around the world--with the unintended consequence of introducing new diseases and aliments to populations that had no natural resistances to these diseases. North America, in particular, was the source of several grape ailments that would devastate the French wine industry. It started in the 1850s with the introduction of powdery mildew, or oidium, which not only affected the skin color of the grapes but also reduced vine yields and the resulting quality of the wines. The 1854 vintage was particularly hard hit, producing the smallest yields seen in more than 60 years. A solution to the problem was discovered in 1857 when Henri Marès devised a technique of sulfuring vines to combat oidium.

But just as French vignerons were recovering from oidium came a new mysterious ailment that that cause decay and eventually death to the grapevine. The cause was a tiny louse, known as phylloxera, imported from North America that was targeting the rootstock. The solution to epidemic also came from North America in the grafting of naturally resistance American rootstock to the European vines. However, while the importing of this new North American plant material helped to starve off the phylloxera epidemic, it brought with it yet more problems-the fungal disease of downy mildew that first surfaced in 1878 and black rot that followed in the 1880s.

The devastation to French vineyard brought with it the opportunity to explore new plantings and many vignerons began to experiment with hybrid plantings--starting first with the American hybrids (such as Delaware and Clinton) with genes from the more resistance American vines species and then moving onto to French hybrids (such as Chambourcin and Vidal blanc) that produces wines with flavors more familiar to European Vitis vinifera.

In the late 19th century the French government commissioned Louis Pasteur to conduct a study on the problems plaguing the French wine industry. His findings would have a lasting influence on the science of French winemaking. Pasteur was asked to help identify wine quality control issues that caused spoilage and other faults. During the 3 to 4 years that Pasteur spent studying wine he observed and articulated some extent of the process of fermentation--noted that it was living organisms (yeast) that convert sugar in the grape must into alcohol in some form of chemical reaction. He also noted the presence of glycerol and succinic acid in wine as well as the beneficial process of adding tartaric acid during winemaking. Another observation that Pasteur made was that oxygen played a significant role in the aging and improvement of wine.

After studying on the cause of spoilage and faults in French wine, Pasteur was able to identify several factors including some that could be controlled during winemaking. He noted that "graisse" was due to the production of polysaccharide, degradation of sugars lead to mannitic acid and that the degradation of glycerol lead to bitterness in the wine. Pasteur found that the particular problem of Burgundy wine spoiling and turning into vinegar on long voyages to England was caused by the bacteria acetobacter. The results of Pasteur's studies would revolutionize French understanding of winemaking and eventually spread to other wine regions across the globe.

The development of railway systems broaden the horizon for trade in French wines. Regions that were not historically dependent on river transportation suddenly found new opportunities and more commercial interest in their wines now that they could be transported more easily. The Languedoc region of southern France became a vastly planted expanse of land churning out great numbers of light, simple wines that were sent all over France. Many of these wines were "improved" in alcohol, color and weight with the addition of Algerian wine from the French colony in Africa--providing a sizable impact on the Algerian economy until that country's independence in the mid 20th century.

The 20th century brought two World Wars, which had devastating effects on some French wine regions, but also brought a renewed focus on reorganization of the country's wine industry. The development of the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) and the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) systems emphasized the identity of French wines and the concept of terroir. Programs have been enacted, in conjunction with the European Union, to combat the "wine lake" surplus problem by uprooting less desirable grape varieties and ensuring that vignerons receive technical training in viticulture and winemaking. Many of these actions came in response to declining domestic consumption and slumping sales that followed through the close of the 20th century. Heading into the 21st century, some parts of French wine industry have thrived while others have been faced with a crisis of confidence.

Throughout its history, the French wine industry has been shaped by the influences of both external and internal forces. Three of the more prominent and pervasive influences came from the English/British people through both commercial interest and political factors, the Dutch who were significant players in the wine trade for much of the 16 and 17th century and the Catholic Church which held considerable vineyard properties until the French Revolution.

Over several centuries, a number of factors contributed to the prominent influence that England (Great Britain) would have over the French wine industry. With a cool wet climate, the British Isles have historically produced dramatically different styles of wines than the French and in too small of numbers to satisfy the London market. This caused the English to look abroad for wines, using the clout of their economic and political power to their advantage. The 1152 marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and the future King Henry II of England brought a large portion of southwest France under English rule. When Henry's son John inherited the English crown, he sought to curry favor among the Gascons by bestowed upon them many privileges-the most notable of which was an exemption among Bordeaux merchants from the Grand Coutume export tax. With this exemption and favored treatment in London, Bordeaux wine became the cheapest wine in the London market and gain immense popularity among the English. For over the next 300 years much of Gascony, particular Bordeaux, benefited by the close commercial ties with the English allowing this area to grow in prominence among all French wines. In the aftermath of the Hundred Year War, these lands reverted back to French rule but with a lasting imprint of English influence.

Following the restoration of Charles II to the British crown, several French wines came back into fashion in the London market. One such wine was a fizzy drink from the Champagne region that was disparaged among French wine drinkers for its faulty bubbles. A French expatriate, Charles de Saint-Évremond, introduced this sparkling style of Champagne to the London court and it was met with enthusiastic popularity. The development of stronger, thicker bottles by British glass makers encouraged more Champagne winemakers to actively start producing sparkling wine for the lucrative British market.

In the 16th and 17th century, the Dutch (particularly those from Holland and Zeeland) wielded considerable influence over the development of the French wine. Their strength was their sizable merchant fleet and trading access across Northern Europe in places like the Baltic and Hanseatic states. When political conflicts between the French and English flared up, it was the Dutch who stepped in to fill the void and serve as a continuing link funneling the wines of Bordeaux and La Rochelle into England. The town of Middelburg earned a reputation across Europe as a center for trade of French wine.

Dutch interest in the wine trade prompted advancement in winemaking styles and technology. One problem that plagued the French wine trade was the perishability of wine which rarely survived longer than the next vintage. French wine during this period was often imbalance and unstable, being not properly clarified during wine making and lacking the alcohol needed to preserve the wine. This was of considerable concern to the Dutch who would sometimes be delayed in their trading with ports along the Baltic and White Seas when they freeze and became impassable in the winter. To ward off spoilage the Dutch developed methods of fortification by adding brandy to the wine to stop fermentation and increase the life expectancy of the wine. The Dutch further introduced to the French a method of sulfuring the wines (known as allumettes hollandaises) which has the effect of stabilizing the wine and preventing some degree of spoilage. The introduction of new Dutch winemaking techniques helped antiquated methods such as the use of lead fall into disuse. Used since the days of Ancient Rome, lead was used in regions such as Poitou to help sweeten and preserve some of their wines leading to various ailments that collectively were known as the "Poitou colic". By the end of the 17th century, most Poitou winemakers had stopped using lead in their wine production.

The Dutch also promoted the plantings of many white wine varieties that were in fashion through Europe. In regions like Muscadet, in the Loire Valley, the Dutch encouraged the planting of Melon de Bourgogne which produced more reliable harvest than the region's red wine varieties. The practice of blending different grape varieties from different areas was also influenced by the Dutch as a means of improving weaker wines or to adapt wines to changing public tastes. When the English developed tastes for stronger sweeter wines, the Dutch were the first to bulk up the Gascon claret wines with the wines of Cahors. Skilled engineers, the Dutch drained the marshy Medoc (left bank) region in the 17th century and began planting the region with vineyards. Prior to this time, Bordeaux's most sought-after wines came from the well-drained soil of the Grave's region including the estate of Chateau Haut-Brion. By the end of the 17th century, with the aid of the Dutch, the future First Growth estates of Chateau Lafite, Latour and Margaux were planted and already starting to get notice abroad.

While there have been theories put forth that the Christian Church "saved" viticulture in France following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes that invaded the region were known to be fond of wine themselves leaving little evidence that viticulture and winemaking needed to be "saved" during this period. The Church, however, did become one of the most prominent and influential force in French winemaking during the Medieval period due to their vast holdings of vineyard lands. The Merovingian period of Frankish rule saw the early seeds of monastic influence on French wine when Guntram, Clovis' grandson, gave a vineyard to the abbey of St. Benignus at Dijon. In 630, the abbey of Beze near Gevrey received vineyards in Beaune, Gevrey and Vosnee as a gift from the duke of Lower Burgundy.

The reign of Charlemagne brought in a period of peace, stability and prosperity that help foster the growth of the emerging wine regions of France. In 775 he gave the abbey of Saulieu a plot of land that bears his name today in the grand cru vineyard of Corton-Charlemagne. The spread of viticulture during Charlemagne's reign was fueled in part by the expansion of the Christian Church which needed a daily supply of wine for the sacrament of the Eurcharist, the monk's personal consumption as well as for hospitality of guest. It was the belief among the Christian Church that important guests who visited the monasteries would be more likely to repay the Church generously if they were entertained well during their stay. The amount of vineyards holdings and the quality of wine they produce became a status symbol for the bishops, putting them on par with the nobility. Some bishoprics even moved to be closer to their vineyard holding, such as the bishopric of St-Quentin which moved to Noyon near Paris and the bishopric of Langres which moved to Dijon just north of the Cote d'Or in Burgundy. The influence of Christianity helped to create two categories of wine in Medieval France-simple, basic wine meant for daily consumption and more superior, premium wine that was reserved for impressing important guest.

Various monastic orders became synonymous with certain wine regions due to their ownership of what is today considered some of most prized vineyards lands. The first group of monks to acquire vineyards on a large scale were the Benedictines of Cluny who came to owned most of what is now Gevrey-Chambertin by 1273. In 1232, the abbey of St-Vivant received the vineyard lands now known as Romanee-Conti, Romanee-St-Vivant, Richebourg, La Romanee and La Tache as a gift from the duchess of Burgundy. The Benedictines were also prominent vineyards owners with the wine produced in the abbey of St-Pourcain being one of the most highly regarded wines in medieval France. In the Loire Valley, the Benedictine monasteries in Bourgueil and La Charité extensively cultivated the lands around them while the abbey of St-Nicolas included large vineyards around Anjou. In Bordeaux, the Benedictines owned several properties including what became the modern classified estate of Chateau Prieure in Cantenac as well as the Graves estates of Chateau Carbonnieux. Other regions with Benedictine vineyards include Cornas and St-Peray in the Rhone as well six monastic estates in the Champagne region of Rheims.

One of the most famous holdings of the Cistercians was the walled vineyard of Clos de Vougeot but the extent of their lands included holdings in Beaune, Meursault, Pommard as well as Chablis where the Pontigny Abbey was believed to have been the first to plant Chardonnay in the region. Cisterians vineyards produced highly regarded wines in Provence and Sancerre.The Cisterian monks applied their ascetic habits, skilled labor and organization philosophy to wine making in a manner unique to French wine. Through their detailed record keeping and observations, the monks began to notice that certain plots of lands even those only a few feet apart, produced remarkably different wines. These observation laid the groundwork on the identification of certain "crus" of vineyards and the French understanding of terroir.

Through their extensive holdings, the monasteries of the Christian Church made many advances in French winemaking and viticulture with the study and observation of key vineyards sites, isolating the grape varieties that grew best in certain regions and discovering new methods of productions. In 1531 it was a monk in the Languedoc region of Limoux that discovers the process of turning still wine into sparkling wine. Though the wide spread tale of Dom Perignon "inventing" the sparkling wine known as Champagne is inaccurate, the Benedictine monk nonetheless made several important contributions to the history of French wine. In 1668, Brother Pierre Perignon was appointed treasurer of the abbey of Hautvillers, located north of Épernay with his role including management of abbey's vineyard holdings and the collection of tithes from the community in the form of grapes and wines. Dom Perignon took the wine from all these sources and blended them to produce a wine that fetched far higher prices than wines from other parts of Champagne. Perignon's practice of blending from several different vineyards was unique and largely unheard of till then. He also pioneered the practice of severe pruning in the vineyard to keep yields low.

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Pemberton's French Wine Coca

Pemberton's French Wine Coca was a cocawine created by the druggist John Stith Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola. It was an alcoholic beverage, mixed with coca, kola nut and damiana.

In 1885, when Atlanta and Fulton County enacted temperance legislation, Pemberton scrambled to develop a non-alcoholic version of his popular product. Ironically, the new legislation did not affect the coca ingredient (cocaine), which remained in the formula until the end of the 19th century. The result was an early version of Coca-Cola, although the coca ingredient (cocaine) was the main active ingredient when the company was acquired by Asa Candler.

French Wine Coca was essentially an imitation of Angelo Mariani's blend of Bordeaux wine and coca, called Vin Mariani. Mariani's beverage achieved extraordinary success in the 1880s, inspiring a host of knock-offs, of which Pemberton's was merely one of the more successful. However, Vin Mariani lacked both damiana, a reputed cure for impotence, as well as kola nut, a source of caffeine - both of which were later included in Coca-Cola.

Despite Atlanta's Temperance legislation, production of French Wine Coca continued until Pemberton's death in 1888. Indeed, in the year 1887, French Wine Coca sold 720 bottles a day - far outstripping Coca-Cola.

Pemberton claimed astounding medicinal properties for his French Wine Coca, which was marketed as a patent medicine. The beverage was advertised as a cure for nerve trouble, dyspepsia, mental and physical exhaustion, gastric irritability, wasting diseases, constipation, headache, neurasthenia and impotence. It was also suggested as a cure for morphine addiction, which was increasingly common after the Civil War (Pemberton himself was addicted to the drug).

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Source : Wikipedia