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There can be little question that France represents the benchmark against which wines everywhere are generally measured. Little wonder: they've had plenty of time to get it right, with the earliest wine grapes being planted during the sixth, or possibly even the seventh, century B.C. in what is today Provence and the Languedoc. Leave it to the Romans, however, to establish what are now regarded as the "blue chip" regions: Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, and the Loire.

To best understand French wine requires a completely different mindset from what we're accustomed to in the U.S. Here we think in terms of grape variety, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, etc. In France, however, a wine's identity is derived from its geographic place of origin. The names of such well-known French wines as Bordeaux or Pouilly-Fuissé, for example, are in fact the names of the places where the grapes were grown and the wine made. These geographic distinctions have   More