Wine (Vin) Tasting in France
Wine is produced in almost every region of France, but a few of these regions are the most famous. Top among them are Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, the Loire Valley, Provence, the Rhône and Savoie. When you travel France, be sure to visit a wine cellar, vineyard or local wine shop where you'll find the producers happy to talk with you about their wines.
Visiting a Winery
Small wine vintners may only accept visitors by appointment, but calling a couple of days (or even hours) in advance is usually adequate. Larger vineyards and cellars are open to the public and offer standard hours of operation. In most wine regions, you find local wine shops carrying a variety of wines to be tasted, compared and purchased. Other shops owned and operated by an individual wine maker will carry only that producer's wares.
At most major wineries a small charge is required for tasting wine. Smaller wineries do not charge, but expect that you will purchase a bottle or two of the wine after your sampling. If you have called ahead to visit a small winery, it is polite to make a purchase, keeping in mind that they have taken the extra effort to make time to visit with you.
Tasting the Wine
If you are going to a winery or local cellar or shop, keep the following wine tasting tips in mind.
Keep in mind that wine tasting is just that, a tasting. There is no need to drink the wine to fully appreciate its flavors. If you take a drink from each sample, you will not be able to distinguish the difference in qualities after a couple drinks. If you are visiting a winery where several samples will be offered, it is customary to taste and then spit out each sample, except possibly the final one. Typically you will find a bucket (un crachoir) for you to spit into. In a true cellar it is acceptable to spit the wine onto the floor. Typically you will be offered tastings in order from the lowest to highest quality, so saving the drink for the best and last is customary.
Classifications of French Wine
French wine is divided into the following classifications. These classifications relate to the controls that have been put into place on the production of the wine, and not necessarily the quality. While you might assume that those wines with the strictest controls will taste the best, this is not always true. Follow your taste buds!
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