5 Fascinating Facts About French Wine

frenchThe French are amazingly resilient people, an assertion underscored in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris last November.

I happened to be covering an important global bowling tournament, the QubicaAMF World Cup in Las Vegas, for Bowlers Journal magazine that week. (Yes, I understand that beer is considered the official adult beverage of bowling, but I’m a bowling-and-wine guy.)

There, athletes, coaches and media from more than 70 countries had gathered for the 51st annual event. Included in the entourage were two players from France and a French journalist who had covered nearly all of the World Cup tournaments through the years, Bernard Mora.

I’d like to share some of my Bowlers Journal story with you here. He provides a unique perspective on a tragic event.

Mora was born in Paris and now lives just west of the city, in Lacelle. His Los Angeles-bound flight left just five hours before the attacks, and he heard about them after driving half-way to Las Vegas and checking into a motel for the night. It brought back memories of a time long, long ago.

“My family lived in Paris when the German Army invaded on June 14, 1940,” he recalled. “They first came in with tanks, followed by men on horses. On the main streets of Paris, we needed 10 days to clean up the horse manure.

“The occupation lasted until Aug. 25, 1944, when the American Army arrived,” he continued. “A few days later, a U.S. soldier gave me a Heath Bar; I had not had chocolate for more than four years.

“So, today, the war continues — it is just a different kind of war.”

Mora, now 86 years old, paused for a moment, glanced around the bowling center concourse that was crowded with people from dozens of countries, and then added: “Each generation has a problem.”

I was struck not only by Mora’s calm demeanor — after all, he soon would be heading back to his home, just miles from the scenes of the attacks — but also his wisdom.

That horrific topic concluded, I could not resist the opportunity to talk to a Frenchman about wine.

“I have some every day,” he said. “I have had some physical problems, but I think wine could be the reason I’m still here.”

Does he have a favorite kind of wine?

“French wine, of course,” he answered with a smile.

What kind of French wine?

“Burgundy,” he said, without hesitation. “Red Burgundy. Actually, it does not need to be from Burgundy. Any good Pinot Noir will do.”

With that, we bid each other adieu, and I wished I could share with him the “good Pinot Noir” that is included in our latest collection of French reds. Perhaps another time.

Meanwhile, here are five fascinating facts about French wine…

  1. The rise of the Roman Empire saw vineyard plantings and winemaking proliferate throughout today’s France. With the fall of that empire, the wine culture could have disappeared. Fortunately, monks helped preserve not only the vineyards but also the historic knowledge of winemaking in that part of the world.
  1. Statistics in the wine world are constantly changing — every vintage brings further variations — and some wine countries have been known to… how should we put it?… slightly exaggerate their place in that world. But with the possible exception of the Italians, most people agree that in France, more wine is consumed per person than in any other country. How much? About 60 liters per year.
  1. Although the French drink more wine than anyone else, they’re also embracing the “cocktail culture” of the new millennium. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of their most popular cocktails includes wine in the recipe. Kir is made with one measure of crème de cassis and topped up with white wine. One of several variations calls for red wine instead of white, and ideal choices for that wine would be a Bordeaux blend or a Southern France cuvee, like those featured in the Bordeaux and Beyond collection. A popular variation for Sunday brunch is the Kir Royale, for which Champagne replaces the white wine, and Chambord may be used instead of crème de cassis.
  1. Enough about cocktails; let’s get back to French wine. In the supermarkets of France, where most of the wine is bought, about 60% of the purchases are reds, about 25% are rosés and about 15% are whites. No question, the French love their red wines, and they keep about two-thirds of it for themselves. Only about one-third of French wine is exported.
  1. Finally, here’s a stat I absolutely love. According to one survey, 72% of the adult population of France finds understanding a French wine label to be just as challenging as it is for me.

Okay, they didn’t really use ME as the baseline for the survey, but even when language is not a barrier, French wine labels apparently can be daunting to understand.

Which reminds me of Vinesse founder Larry Dutra’s mantra for the two decades I have known him: “The only thing that matters is what’s INSIDE the bottle.” And I think you’re going to love what’s inside the three bottles in our Bordeaux and Beyond collection.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass
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