help with french wine - Printable Version

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- *newbie* - 03-05-2001 05:31 PM

Today I purchased several bottles of wines ranging from $12 to $20 bucks. One of them was a French wine. The reason I purchased it was it carried what I thought was a good French rating. However, after I came home and looked in my wine book I was a little confused about the French rating system. The wine in question is a (as it reads from top of label to the bottom) 1998 Chateau, La Grange Clinet, Appellation premieres cotes de bordeaux Controlee, Mis en Bouteille au Chateau. So did I do good or bad? I am still deciding what kinds of wine I like and this is just an extenstion of the tasting process for me. I don't have a ton of $$ in this bottle so it won't bother me if I don't like it. I just want to understand the French "AC" system. Thanks in advance.


- Drew - 03-05-2001 05:40 PM

I wouldn't expect much, newbie. La Grange Clinet produces average Bordeaux that don't have much depth.....but, I haven't tried the '98 so you might just have a winner.


- ddf68 - 03-06-2001 11:29 AM

Newbie, AC is short for Appellation d'Origine Controlee. Roughly speaking that means "Place-name of origin controlled". Most French wines are named for a geographical area in which they are produced. That is, the name of a wine is almost always also the name of a region, a town, or even a particular vineyard.

In order to use a particular place name, such as "Bordeaux" or "Premiere Cotes de Bordeaux", one is restricted in the types of grapes one can use, when harvest can start, how ripe the grapes have to be, maximum yields, etc. The idea behind this is that the French think that in the hundreds of years they've been making wine they've figured out the ideal combination of all these factors for all the different wine producing regions in France. Thus, a wine permitted to use a controlled appellation is, in theory, a wine of some quality, because it has been made in the "right" way.

The AOC system does not expressly recognize qualitative differences between various wine producing regions. However, within wine producing regions differences in the specificity of the geographic name generally are supposed to relate to differences in quality. That is, a wine with a regional name, like Borgougne (Burgundy) is theoretically not as good as a wine with a village name, like Chambolle-Musigny, which is theoretically not as good as a wine with a vineyard name, like Beaune Clos des Ursules (Beaune is a village, Close des Ursules is a vineyard in that village).

Obviously, there are other important variables. The motivations and ability of the producer are hugely important. The same wine, appellation speaking, made by two different producers can be radically different in style and quality. Vintage is also awfully important because weather, pests, and disease have a huge impact on the quality of the grape the winemaker has to work with.

There are numerous exceptions to this basic framework. Bordeaux, for example, has a number of classification systems that are theoretically directly tied to quality. Alsace uses grape names (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, etc.) on its wines.

Your wine fits within this system as follows. The regional appellation is Bordeaux. Within that appellation there are numerous smaller regions. Premiere Cotes de Bordeaux is one of these smaller regions. Some of these regions, the Haut-Medoc in particular, also have village appellations (Margaux, St. Estephe, etc.) Vineyard appellations are not used in Bordeaux. That story, however, will have to wait for another day.

Hope this has been some help.


- *newbie* - 03-07-2001 05:26 PM

Thanks to both Drew and ddf. I have yet to try the French wine, but I look forward to it, even though Drew shot me down [img][/img] I also purchased that same day an Argentina wine that reads as follows. I would appreciate all comments.
Finca Flichman, Syrah, Mendoza 1997. Thanks in advance.


- Drew - 03-07-2001 10:07 PM

Don't expect much out of the Flichman either.