French wine is globally renowned for its taste and quality. France annually produces around 50 to 60 million hectoliters wine per year, equivalent to nearly 7 to 8 billion bottles. Although the exact origin of wine is still debated among historians and wine experts, it is agreed that France is one of those regions that initially produced wine. The unique and fine taste of French wine differentiates it from other wine producing regions (Isle, 2019). The full-flavored rose wine produced in France is far better than many wine manufacturing firms, and it puts a quality threshold on the competitors.

Although the French wine always outshined the wines produced in other regions, the vineyards producing quality wine suffered heavily in the late 19th century’s catastrophe known as the ‘Great French Wine Blight.’ In the 1870s, French vineyards were desolated, and it was thought that this industry would never revive.

The French wine industry was spiflicated as almost 40% of the vineyards were adversely affected from the 1850s to the mid-1870s. This blight resulted in the shutting down of various businesses, and the wine industry was on the edge of destruction. Physical examination of the blight revealed that it was due to an American parasite (called Phylloxera) that adversely affected the plant roots in the vineyards.

The grape growers could not solve the issue, so two prominent botanists, i.e., George Hussmann and  Charles V.Riley, were called to investigate the blight and solve the problem. Detailed analysis of the botanist from several plants for different vineyards concluded that if an American parasite attacks a plant, it will become impossible for the plant to live.

To solve the Phylloxera issue of the French grape plants, the experts suggested grafting the French grape branch into American rootstock, as some American rootstocks were immune to this parasite by that time since it was coming from there. This technique was very successful in treating the blight, and the untiring efforts of the botanist saved the French wine industry. So, the wine industry was saved by grafting native vines onto American rootstock, where the pest was resistant. This technique is still widely used nowadays.

France’s wine-producing regions are divided into several areas, known as ‘The French Wine Regions.’ Each wine region is famous for its unique wine taste and grapes quality. Among the eleven prominent regions include Burgundy, Alsace, Rhone Valley, Loire Valley, Champagne, Bordeaux, etc. Bordeaux is the most famous wine region among all due to its unique classic black and red currant tastes (Isle, 2019). Following are some facts and figures about Bordeaux.

Bordeaux

The region of Bordeaux is located in the southwest of France and has various old mansions and art museums. It is also a port city on the river Garonne. It has been mentioned above that this city is famous for its wines. White wines were top-rated in this region in ancient times.   White wines came in various types like Bordeaux Blanc, Graves, Sauternes, Barsac, etc. (Made mainly with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) Red wines came into trend in the 1970s when Bordeaux’s red blend became famous. (Made with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Carmenere and Petit Verdot)

Back then, people used almost 80% of the land in the region of Bordeaux to produce white wine.

Bordeaux Fun Facts, 2022

Red Bordeaux attracted the eyes of the people, especially the British, that named it ‘claret.’ The main reason for this name is the dark rosé wine that was used in the Middle Ages. British called it claret from the French word ‘clairet.’ In the 18th century, this dark rosé spiced drink color was changed to dry, dark red that is still in use in various places.

The wines of Bordeaux were not famous initially. In fact, before the 12th century, there wasn’t any proper method to transport the wine to other places. It is astonishing to know that many french people who migrated to South America over the past two centuries brought vine cuttings to America. They planted them here, so Merlot and Carmenere (grapes of Bordeaux originally) got strong roots in various places, including Chile.

Argentina is famous for Malbec (the purple grape variety used in wine-making), but it is also native to Bordeaux (Bordeaux Fun Facts, 2022). So, the wine production in Argentina and Chile is due to the vine cutting brought here by the Bordeaux people who migrated here during the past centuries. Those people brought these cuttings with them to America as they were their primary source of income in Bordeaux.

Various events are involved in the history of Bordeaux wine. Let’s have a look at the significant events that helped in shaping the history of  famous wines of Bordeaux:

  • The vineyards of Gironde were constructed a hundred years ago to cultivate the vine, and even today, they are famous for the cultivation of wine. In 1152, the Duchess of Aquitaine and King to-be of England sealed the Bordeaux wines. This decision stopped the transport of wine to British areas.
  • In 1199, Bordeaux monopolized the production and sales of the wine to England.
  • History shows a hundred-year unfortunate war between France and England due to which there was no wine trade till 1453. Things got better in 1475, the time of Louis XI, but the wine trade was not up to the mark (History of Wine in Bordeaux, 2022). The transport of wine was deficient, and it was not even strengthening Bordeaux’s economy.
  • In the 17th century, prosperity began as the Dutch moved the production of fine wine such as ‘Ho-Bryan.’
  • Although England had contributed less to the trade of wine from Bordeaux, the city established its trade terms with Saint Domingue.
  • In 1787, Thomas Jefferson (third President of the U.S. 1801-1809) came to this region and talked about the classification of wines. He liked the region and fell in love with the wines and their tastes. He transported various types of wines to the United States, hence becoming an unofficial ambassador of Bordeaux wines.
  • Cork appeared on the bottles and sealed packing, so the bottles’ outlook also improved during this period.
  • There came a system known as the ‘1855 Classification System’ that was requested by Napoleon III. This system of red wines of Gironde was popular and very influential. Napoleon III requested this system to mark the World’s Fair. The purpose of this system was to show the world all the best things about France.
  • A deadly disease affected the vineyards in 1851. This was named Powdery Mildew, caused by the fungus Podosphaera xanthii, and it made premature death of leaves. The solution to this problem was spraying sulfur on the vines. This was discovered in 1857, and Bordeaux vineyards flourished again (Facts About Powdery Mildew, 2022).
  • Between 1875 and 1892, the Great French Wine Blight was also faced by Bordeaux. It was due to an American parasite that adversely affected the french roots in the vineyards. People were not able to solve the issue, so two scientists were called that at that time investigate this issue. Finally, the vineyards were saved by grafting french vines into America as some American rootstocks were immune to this parasite attack (Pettijohn, 2022).
  • In the 19th century, a system was brought to eradicate diseases and focus on the rapid expansion of vineyards.
  • In 1956, the glory of the wine of Bordeaux was back, and the vineyards recovered their prosperity.
  • In 1987, AOC Pessac Leognan was created. A new appellation defined ten production areas where the Northern Graves got split from the rest of the place.

Wine tourism in the region bloomed drastically after this period. There is the wine museum Cite du Vin, tourism routes, and various activities that make Bordeaux prominent in the eyes of tourists and visitors. UNESCO has also declared this region a World Heritage Site, so its popularity is enhancing day by day. There is a plan to move Bordeaux close to Paris with a speedy line.

This high-speed line will take passengers from one place to another in no time. The distance of two hours will be covered in just five minutes (History of Wine in Bordeaux, 2022). The connection between these two cities will help tourists visit two places in less time. On the other hand, it will benefit France as well because the country’s economy will be strengthened.

Fun facts about Bordeaux wine

  • White Bordeaux wines are made via decayed and sour grapes (Bordeaux Fun Facts, 2022). This does not affect the taste, though.
  • Various types of grapes (Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, etc.) are decayed by Botrytis cinerea (a fungus that affects the plants). The grapes are cracked due to this fungus, and water is poured out. This process helps to make concentrated unique, and exceptional wines that are great in taste as well.
  • Saint Emilion is a city that is located at the crossroads of Bordeaux, Perigord, and Saintonge. This city is situated in a region of wine hills. The vineyards planted here are because of Romans, and their history goes back to the 2nd century AD. Saint Emilion is included in one of the four main red wine areas around Bordeaux. This place has various vine-related monuments that were created back in the 18th/and 19th This historic region is named after a monk who preferred to live lonely for religious purposes in caves. This happened in the 8th century and according to a survey carried out in 2013, around 13 bottles of the wine (made from the grapes of this region) are sold every single second around the world (World Heritage Site, 2022). The red wines produced are made from the popular grapes variety like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.
  • Another specialty of Bordeaux is its pastry, named Canelés,which is made from rum and yolks. The taste of this pastry is developed by fining the famous Bordeaux wine with egg whites; hence excess egg yolks are left that are also used in this pastry. This is unique in taste and has a very soft texture.
  • The oldest wine of Bordeaux is known as Chateau Pape Clement. Pape Clement is situated in the Pessac-Léognanregion in the south of Bordeaux, and this place is famous for harvesting vine. The cultivation of the first wine took place in 1254. Till 2006, it was the 700thvintage of harvesting of this wine. This shows how old this wine is. It is also great in taste and ranked among Crus Classes for red wine. There stands Chateau Pape Clement in the vineyard, a Cru Classé Graves Visitors/ tourists come to this place to view vineyards and sunset or sunrise. They enjoy the great taste of the famous wine of this region (Mitchell, 2022).
  • The best time to work in vineyards is in October in Bordeaux. The winemakers plow in this month to produce quality grapes. Fertilizers are also added to tackle any deficiencies that might occur during this process.
  • Ausonius was a Latin poet from the period 310-393D. He was the first to mention Bordeaux wine in his writings and poems. He mentioned in his poems as well that he is growing wine himself, and he loves to have a beverage. The Bordeaux wine Chateau Ausone was named after this poet in1781 (Quirky Facts-Bordeaux, 2022).
  • Most of the buildings in Bordeaux were constructed in the 18th century when the richer Bordelais wanted to show off their wealth. This idea attracted others, and top producers took it as a marketing opportunity. Chateau or wine-building ideas started after that.
  • Many modern wine-making techniques came from Bordeaux. A french researcher Emile Peynaud shaped the wine that is liked by everyone these days. He made a few improvements in the process of making wine, like wine should be made from good quality grapes only, red grapes should be picked when properly ripped, processing wine from different parcels and quality, etc. These easy-to-follow steps of the researcher helped to improve the process to a great extent.
  • Approximately 60% of all the plantings in Bordeaux is a typical grape named Merlot. The main reason for this is its easier growing and riping process. It becomes drinkable earlier if it is compared with Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Another important fact that needs to be mentioned here is the fine dining with a fine wine of Bordeaux. According to the French Michelin Guide 2017, there are 616 starred and excellent restaurants, and Bordeaux holds 27 restaurants that are starred (Quirky Facts-Bordeaux, 2022).

Want to read more about wine? Try reading this book!

French Wines: The Essential Guide to the Wines and Wine Growing Regions of France

References

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