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the wine connection

Kris Love Is French wine the best? Yes...and no.

By Kris Love
Translated by Angel Pu

Is French wine the best? Yes...and no.

Is French wine the best? Yes...and no.

After years of discussion and, far more interestingly, drinking wine in Taiwan, I've concluded that most wine drinkers fit into two main categories: those convinced that if it comes from France it must be good and shows a high degree of sophistication (in the wine and wine buyer), and those that avoid French wines completely (when they are paying), regarding them as poor value for money, thin, acidic and lacking in fruit.

So, is French wine the best? Well, the simple answer is yes, it is, and no, it isn't. Frustrated? Don't be. There are two main ways in which wine producers around the world label their wines. In France, the dominating system is called the Appellation Controlee system. Wine is labelled according to a designated geographical area subject to set rules regarding which grapes are allowed to be included and how much wine you can squeeze out of every hectare. 2012 is seeing the culmination of an overhaul of the rules and categorizations that has been underway since 2006. I'll go into more detail when it's fully finished, but essentially use this as a guide to indicate quality.

The lowest level prior to the above changes was Vin de Table. This has essentially changed to become Vin de France. The wines at this level will almost always be between a little tired and totally past their best on the shelf in Taiwan. Even the next two levels up--Vin de Pays and AC/AOC wines--often don't have long shelf lives, especially by the time they make it here. So, these wines probably make up the majority of what the anti-French wine contingent have tried. Each region in France basically has its own system for categorization above that. While it is still hit-and-miss, names like Superior, Premier Cru and Grand Cru should give you a high chance of success, particularly with Burgundy and Bordeaux, if you want to stretch your wallet a little.

Many of the best wines I have tried come from France, in addition to plenty that I will be happy never to try again. My pick of the month: Look out for some Premier Cru Chablis from my favourite producer there, La Chablisienne. Crisp, refreshing green apple fruit with a flinty, mineral character. For those of you who thought you knew Chardonnay, but haven't tried good Chablis, think again!

Happy drinking,


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