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French Wine (Eyewitness Companion Guides) Flexibound – December 19, 2005
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The book provides a nice service by beginning with context for a description of current French wines by region. The slender volume begins with a history of wine in general, and then French wine in particular. The author, Robert Joseph, notes that French wine was around before 500 B. C. Then, a section on wine making. For those interested in the nitty gritty of wine, there follows a description of the variety of raw materials--grapes from red to white, from Carignan to Viognier (plus some miscellaneous varieties to boot). And so on. . . . I learned a lot about the basics in the first segments of this book, including how different wines are made. Then, we get to labels, and my eyes glazed over! The discussion of the grades of wine, culminating in Appellation d'origine controlee. Arcane, to say the least! But fascinating! What's meant by bouquet? Elegant? Stalky? The book goes through each term.
The heart of the book follows, with a region by region description of wines and the wine producers. This section begins with Alsace and Lorraine and concludes with miscellany. I like a nice red Bordeaux. So, naturally, I went to the section on this region of France wine-making. Nice discussion of a tour of the region and its history. From pages 92-111, there is a description of a series of wines coming from this region. Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (famously headed in the latter part of the 20th century by Baron Philippe de Rothschild), and so on. Delightful writing and neat little tidbits abound.
And on it goes, region by region. Some of the arcane facts leave me a bit dizzy and not sure that I'm "getting it." But that's part of the fun! If you want to get an enjoyable introduction to French wine, this little book is a good start!
I have a very stong knowledge of French wine, but still refer to this book often.
The book includes some basic suggestions on how to read a label, how to appreciate wine, how to build a cellar, etc. but the guide's strongest suit is the commentary on regions and their individual wines. This is slim enough to carry along if you are doing a wine tour in France and includes reasonably good maps of the regions that provide logical itineraries for tasting stops.
There are more comprehensive works on French wines--literally encyclopedias--but the DK French Wine guide is a fine basic work on the subject and probably not more than most of us need.