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California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes.
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.
Of all the New World wine countries, perhaps the one which has demonstrated the most flair for producing high quality wines - using a combination of traditional and forward-thinking contemporary methods - has been the United States of America. For the past couple of centuries, the United States has set about transforming much of its suitable land into vast vineyards, capable of supporting a wide variety of world-class grape varietals which thrive on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coastlines. Of course, we immediately think of sun-drenched California in regards to American wines, with its enormous vineyards responsible for the New World's finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, but many other states have taken to viticulture in a big way, with impressive results. Oregon, Washington State and New York have all developed sophisticated and technologically advanced wine cultures of their own, and the output of U.S wineries is increasing each year as more and more people are converted to their produce.