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Year in, year out, France enjoys its prestigious reputation as the producer of the finest wines in the world. With a wine making history which spans several thousand years and owes its expertise to the Romans, it comes as little surprise that this most highly esteemed of the Old World wine countries continues to impress and enchant both novices and experts to this day. Despite the rise in quality of wines from neighboring European countries, not to mention the New World, the French wine industry continues to boom, with up to eight billion bottles being produced in recent years. However, France prides itself on always putting quality before quantity, and the wide range in fine produce is a testament to the dedication and knowledge of the wineries across the country. Indeed, from rich and complex reds to light and aromatic white wines, French wines are as varied and interesting as they are enjoyable to drink, making this country a firm favorite for wine lovers across the globe.
The French wines of Beaujolais are widely regarded as some of the finest table wines in the world. This is due in part to the qualities of the Gamay grape, from which they are made. Gamay produces beautifully, juicy, rounded and gulpable red wines, usually drank young and full of their natural fruit character. However, it would be a mistake to say that Gamay is limited to easy-drinking, soft wines - it’s a highly flexible and versatile grape, capable of producing aged wines of serious complexity and structure, full of expression and fascinating characteristics.
The majority of Gamay wines from France are labeled under Beaujolais Villages or Beaujolais, and these are the standard table wines we’re used to seeing in French restaurants, at bistros, and at our local wine store. Usually great value for money, these are the light, slightly acidic examples of what the grape can do. Far more interesting are those Gamay wines from the 10 cru villages, just north of Beaujolais, where generations of expertise and a unique soil type made up of granitic schist result in far more unique, complicated wines. The best examples of Gamay feature intense aromatics, all black fruit and forest fare, and are worth cellaring for a few years.
Within France, the one region most closely associated with fine white and rosé wines is surely the Loire Valley. With over eight controlled appellations, and a relatively large expanse of land covering this wide valley, the Loire Valley is an ideal location for wineries wishing to produce large quantities of excellent quality vines for their wine production. Indeed, this region has been associated with excellent white wines for over a thousand years, with it once being the favorite wine region for the crowned heads of England, France and beyond. Today, it produces a wide range of white wines, and several rosé and red varieties also. It is also widely celebrated for being home to some of France's most lively and fruity sparkling crémant wines, which more than match those produced in nearby Champagne.