Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Chateau "X", or "What the hell does that label say?"

Country of culture, stinky hairy armpits (and even stinkier cheeses), and wine labels that are just about as intelligible as ancient Mayan hieroglyphs...

Interesting thing about the French Chateaux and appellations, and the way they present wine to the world, is that they seem totally unconcerned that most people outside of France don't have a clue about the differences, say, between a Pouilly-Fuisse (Chardonnay) and a Pouilly-Fume (Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Vert), since from the outside of the bottle all one can tell is that both are "white" wines. Nothing informs the purchaser about the fruit aromas they may find, the level of acidity, etc. By placing information on the labels (well, duh!...the whole point of putting a label on anything is to be able to know what's inside the container without having to open it) the consumer can mentally gauge whether or not it's the proper product for their purposes.

And really! Can you truly tell me that only the small stream separating Chat. Latour and Chat. Leoville Las Cases in Bordeaux is what makes the difference between a Premier Cuvee and something lesser in quality? They share all characteristics of the environment ("terroir" if you must use the phrase), so what can be the difference, eh? Perhaps the type of grape grown and the style of vinting?...I wonder...

But the French would rather you knew which community the wine was made in.
In the 13th century, when people didn't travel more than 20 miles in their lifetime this may have made sense, as each location's wines were a "unique" and exotic experience.
Or so it would seem - since very few ever traveled enough to prove this theory wrong!

This is the 21st century though, and unless you were a geography major in college, with an emphasis on France, you'll probably not really care about some far off "Chateaux X" with an impronouncible name that wants to have you shell out $50 on a blind gamble that they haven't put antifreeze in the wine again this year...

If you have some appreciation for wine you probably find the system used everywhere else in the World somewhat superior. By telling people what the type of grape that was used to make the wine, people will have an easier way to anticipate what flavors they will encounter.
Differences in climate and geology are extremely important, but why not tell the consumer what's in the bottle? Don't they think we can make an intelligent choice?

Then again, you may ask "why bother anyway?"...since the majority of French wine is really glorified vin ordinaire, does it matter if you know what type of ordinary wine you're consuming?
Perhaps the French are right, perhaps there are only two types of wine - red and white.
Perhaps, when choosing French wines, that's about all the thought process you'll need.



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