Why are the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne expensive — and even very expensive, and the wine in packs is sold for 60 rubles? Why do some wines live for decades, while others deteriorate after a year of storage?
What does the quality of wine depend on?
In winemaking, quality begins with a terroir (from the word terre, which in French means “earth”).
This word winemakers around the world call the totality of geological composition of the soil, microclimate and light, as well as the surrounding vegetation. These factors are objective, godly given components of the terroir.
However, it also has two parameters determined by human will: the choice of grape varieties and the technologies used for winemaking.
Bad is good
The vine is arranged so that the best in terms of quality of the crop brings only in the most adverse conditions. In other words, the vine is doomed to suffer — from a lack of moisture, a lack of nutrients and an excess of extreme temperatures.
High-quality grapes intended for winemaking must have a concentrated juice, so watering the vine (at least in Europe) is generally prohibited.
Exceptions, of course, are.
Thus, drip irrigation is permitted in the arid regions of the Spanish La Mancha, in some places on the steep slopes in Germany, where the water simply does not linger — otherwise the poor vine can simply dry out.
The soil for the vineyards is chosen by the poor, so that the vine would take root deep down; in some vines, the root system goes to a depth of tens (up to fifty!) meters.
It is necessary that the aroma of the future wine be richer as possible — the fact is that every geological rock with which the roots of the vine come in contact gives the future wine a special flavor.
For example, granite enriches an aromatic bouquet of wine with a tone of violet, and limestone gives it iodine tones and mineral notes.
Where to plant
When choosing a grape variety for planting, the winemaker takes into account primarily two factors of the terroir — the microclimate and soil composition. Therefore, in the northern vineyards mostly white grapes are grown, as they ripen faster, while in the southern ones they plant red varieties that ripen relatively late.
A good example is regions Champagne and Bordeaux. In Champagne, the climate is quite cold, risky for winemaking, and therefore it is allowed to grow only three grape varieties for the production of champagne.
it Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier, they all ripen early and make only white and rosé sparkling wines.
For the sake of justice, it should be noted that there are red wines in Champagne too — for example, Sillery, however, they are practically not quoted.
In the Bordeaux region, it is allowed to plant both red and white grape varieties. Red is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, and white — Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion and Muscadel.
Such a choice is dictated primarily by the nature of the local gravel and clay soils.
In a similar way, it is possible to explain the use of a particular grape variety in any wine-making region that is generally recognized as great.
So the quality of the terroir is the quality of the wine. A simple conclusion, but the French made it before everyone else and were the first to create a classification system called cru (cru), which literally means “soil.”
In 1855, France was preparing for a world exhibition in Paris, and in this regard, the emperor Napoleon III ordered winemakers to create a «wine hierarchy».
They turned to the archives of customs (I must say that archival documents in France are stored for a very long time, in some cases over a thousand years), tracked price fluctuations for exported wine and on this basis built a classification system. Initially, this system extended only to the wines themselves, and produced in Bordeaux, but then was extended to the actual terroir — first in Bordeaux, and then in some other wine-making regions of France, namely Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace.
As a result, the best sites in these regions received statuses Premiers cru and Grands cru. However, the cru system was not the only one.
In other regions, after more than half a century, another classification system appeared and immediately became established — the AOC system, that is, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, in translation «name, controlled by place of origin.»
About what this AOC system is and why it is needed — in the next part.