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by Fred McMillin
A Book for All Readers
The Stature of France
In next month's Tasting History of Wine course (S.F. State), we'll try to select the most important wine country of each millennium. Here are my candidates.
4000—3000 B.C.: Sumer pioneered these three Ws, Writing, the Wheel, and organized Winemaking.
3000—2000 B.C.: Egypt produced the first drawings of Winemaking, was first to label wine jars with source of grapes, winemaker, degree of sweetness, etc.
2000—1000 B.C.: Phoenicia invented glass, the alphabet (symbols for sounds instead of a different symbol for each word), and they took wine and vines throughout the Mediterranean.
1000—0 B.C.: Greece made the best wine of the millennium, and moved quality winemaking to Italy, the Rhone, etc.
0—1000 A.D.: The Roman Empire established winemaking in most of today's best sites in France, Germany, parts of Spain, etc. Its Benedictine black-robed monks preserved winemaking as the Empire faded in mid-millennium.
1000 to 2000 A.D.: France merely developed almost all of the world's best wine grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, etc., etc.) and made the world's best wines.
So, if you are seriously interested in wine, you must learn about...
The Wines of France...which just happens to be the title of a grand new book by Master of Wine Clive Coates, (pictured), veteran wine merchant and author. Here are a few tidbits to prove that it belongs at your bedside.
Muscat - "There is a phrase in the Song of Solomon, 'a fountain of gardens,' which to me summarizes the flavor of dry Muscat wines...A good dry Muscat from Alsace...makes a perfect aperitif, and is best drunk young."
Barbarians—The Roman emperors forbid the sale of the wines of Gaul (France) to the barbarians...which makes one wonder if it might have spurred their attacks on such wine districts as Champagne.
Burgundy—Produces superlative reds and incomparable whites. Classic Cote de Beaune is the most complex and perfectly balanced of all white Burgundy.
Champagne—"A new trend is to produce Champagnes with less sugar, even none at all. These have various names such a Brut Sauvage, Brut de Brut, and Brut Zero."
The Wines of France
One more tidbit. Why did Pope Clement in 1309 set up his court in southeastern France (Avignon) instead of Rome? My own theory, totally unsupported by any evidence, is that he wanted to be closer to the source of French wines. You see, he was the former Archbishop of Bordeaux!
This page created April 2000