An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France / Edition 1

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In this handsome and engaging book, Clive Coates, one of the world's leading authorities on wine, gives us the most up-to-date, comprehensive, and detailed study of the wines of France ever written. Coates's vast knowledge of his subject together with his natural gift as a storyteller make An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France as informative as it is entertaining. He discusses every appellation and explains its character, distinguishes the best growers, and uses a star system to identify the finest estates. With more than forty specially commissioned maps that show the main appellations and wine villages of France in detail and a format that invites browsing as well as in-depth study, this book will be essential reading for anyone, professional or amateur, interested in wine.

Coates gives ample reasons for his belief that France produces the finest wines in the world, in a volume and variety no other country can match. He shows how, despite savage competition from other countries, France holds its own. It not only creates great wines, he says, it also produces affordable wines. The outcome of thirty-five years of traveling around the French vineyards, this book displays a continuing love and respect for French wines and the vignerons of this remarkable country.
In discussing each region and its wines in detail, Coates leaves no stone unturned. His encyclopedic knowledge is evident, bringing the places and the people where these great wines are created to life.

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Editorial Reviews

Richmond Times-Dispatch
The ultimate in gift—giving is this book. It can either be THE book of French wines that you take with you on your excursions or the best reference book on the subject in your library. It covers everything >from the very familiar to the totally unknown. Read it and you will never fear those French sommeliers again.
Quarterly Review of Wines
One heck of a book. It's extraordinarily detailed, provides a ton of information, and, most importantly, tells it like it is. As the French might say, 'très formidable!'.
Wine & Spirits
Coates gives all the information relevant to the wines, and adds a generous dash of opinion and story telling, too, making this as good a read as it is a reference.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
A great wine writer that we don't see as much as we should is the English Master of Wine Clive Coates. This qualifies as a serious gift wine book with its imperial purple jacket alone.
Wine & Spirits
Coates gives all the information relevant to the wines, and adds a generous dash of opinion and story telling, too, making this as good a read as it is a reference.
Quarterly Review of Wines
One heck of a book. It's extraordinarily detailed, provides a ton of information, and, most importantly, tells it like it is. As the French might say, 'très formidable!'.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520220935
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/22/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 1,402,562
  • Product dimensions: 10.50 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Clive Coates, M.W., was awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite by the French government, the Ruffino/Cyril Ray Memorial Prize for his work on Italian wine, and the title of Wine Writer of the Year for 1998/1999 in the Champagne Lanson awards. He has published The Vine, his independent fine wine magazine, since 1985. His books include Claret (1982), Wines of France (1990), Grands Vins: The Finest Chateaux of Bordeaux and their Wines (California, 1995), and Côte D'Or: A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy (California, 1997), which won the Champagne Veuve Clicquot Prize, the André Simon Award, and the James Beard Award.

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Read an Excerpt

ChampagneThere is something special about Champagne, and this something—which is unique to Champagne, not just to sparkling wines in general—has, I suspect, always been there, ever since Champagne as we know it today first began to be produced in the later half of the seventeenth century. Champagne is the celebration wine. It launches ships; it commemorates anniversaries; it toasts weddings. As Talleyrand, foreign minister of France in 1814, said, it is a civilising wine; an elevating wine, as Jorrocks neatly put it ('champagne certainly gives one very gentlemanly ideas'). It can even change principles: 'I'm only a beer teetotaller, not a Champagne teetotaller' (Candida). And it can lead to flights of fancy which no other wine can match. John Arlott in his book on Krug quotes a schoolgirl's first experience of Champagne: 'It's like icicles of rainbow in my mouth.' What a marvellous expression! I wish I'd thought of it!

Champagne Vintages

1998 Champagne escaped the frost and hail which had reduced the crop in Chablis and further south. After a good August but a rainy september there was a record crop. Quality, reflecting this volume, is merely fair.
1997 A small harvest. After a poor summer fine September weather produced wines both high in alcohol and acidity. Very good quality at best: but variable.
1996 A good-sized harvest. Excellent weather during the run up to the vintage produced very healthy ripe fruit. Never before have there been musts with such high sugar readings and such high acidities. Fine quality. Almost certainly to be declared as vintage.
1995 A large harvest. After a shaky start—frost in April and again in May—the flowering was successful and the summer warm and dry. After a rainy start to Septembera the harvesting weather was benign. Very good quality. Probably to be declared as a vintage.
1994 A small harvest. The summer was largely fine, but the weather deteriorated in September and then improved at the end of the picking period. Nevertheless rot was widespread and a sever sorting out of the fruit was vital. Average quality only.
1993 An average harvest. The summer was uneven, odium and mildew prevalent, and heavy rain set in just as the ahrvest was about to commence, causing widespread rot, and lowering the scidity of the wines. Not great, but a stop-gap vintage for some houses.
1992 A large harvest. An early harvest after a generous good summer was a little interrupted by rain but nevertheless a satisfactory if notoutstanding crop, best in the Chardonnays of the C&#244te de Blancs. Declared by some houses as vintage.
1991 A large harvest, despite frost in late April. After a good summer the harvest, which began late, was spoilt by rain. Quality is only fair.
1990 A large harvest. After a poor spring, including frost in early April, the summer weather was excellent. The harvest was early, the fruit ripe, the level of potential alcohol high, as were the acidities. A splendid vintage of very high quality: firm, beautifully balanced, elegant wines which will keep for a long time.

1989, 1988, 1986, 1985, 1983, 1982, 1979, 1976, 1975, 1971, 1971, 1970, 1969, 1966, and 1964.

Leading Champagne Houses

Alfred Gratien
Heidieck & Co. Monopole
Charles Heidsieck
Marne & Champagne
Mo&#235t & Chandon
Pol Roger
Pommery & Greno
Louis Roederer
Veuve Vlicquot-Ponsardin

Piper Heidsieck

Commune: Reims.
Owner: LVHM.
Annual Sales: 5 million bottles.

Florens-Ludwig Heidsieck, a German wool merchant, set up Heidsieck and Company in the years just before the French Revolution, and the firm passed to three nephews in the 1830's, each of whom went their separate ways. Piper is now the largest of the three. Its de luxe wine is called Florens-Louis. Heidsieck and Co. Monopole was taken over by Mumm in 1972 and now belongs to Paul-Fran&#231ois Vranken. The prestige marque is called Diamant Bleu and the top wine Champagne Charlie.

Charles Heidsieck is my favorite of the three—though none would be in my superstar league—and the wines are fresh, generous, fruity and medium-bodied. Heidsieck and Co. Monopole makes standard, dependable wines. I find the wines of Piper-Heidsieck a bit green and find that they age less gracefully than the others.

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(Rated: 3 stars) Krug

Commune: Reims.
Owner: LVHM.
Annual Sales: 500,000 bottles.
vineyard ownership: 15.5 ha.

Quality is the keynote in this small but prestigious house. Fermentation is in oak, no malolactic fermentation is allowed to occur, and no wines are put on the market until they have had considerable bottle age. Only vintage and de luxe Champagnes are produced. The deluxe marque, which used to be called Private Cuveé but was redesigned and relaunched as Grande Cuv&#233e in the late 1990's, is an elegant, refined, complex wine which makes an excellent aperitif. I prefer the more masculine, fuller and firmer richness and depth of the vintage wine, always held back six to eight years before being sold. Recent additions to the range are a rosé and an elegant, harmonious single-vineyard Blanc de Blancs, Clos du Mesnil. Krug is not a cheap Champagne—which is why I refer to their non-vintage as a de luxe marque. Personally, good as it is, I can think of a number of vintage Champagnes I would rather spend my money on. The vintage wine, despite its even higher price, is worth it, and it lasts and lasts.

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(Rated: 1 star) Mo&#235t & Chandon

Commune: Epernay.
Owner: LVHM.
Annual Sales: 24 million bottles.
vineyard ownership: 291 ha.

Mo&#235t, even without its subsidiary companies Mercier and Ruinart—not to menion its association with the Louis Vuitton group which owns Veuve Clicquot and others—is by far the largest Champagne house. Mo&#235t's vineyards produce about 20 per cent of its needs. Pierre-Gabriel Chandon, son-in-law of Jean R&#233my Mo&#235t, himself the grandson of the founder of the firm, bought the Abbey of Hautvillers in 1823—the monks had previously supplied his father-in-law with wine. Jean-R&#233my was a personal friend of Napoleon who decorated him with the L&#233gion d'Honneur. At the suggestion of Lawrence Fenn, an English journalist, the firm launched Dom P&#233rignon in 1935 to celebrate the centenary of it agency in Britain. This wine, from a blend of roughly half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay and only from their own 100 per cent rated vineyards, is one of the best, as well as the best known, of the de luxe brands. It was also the first.

Despite the quantity produced, the standard and consistency of the non-vintage Mo&#235t is high: a medium-bodied, fruity wine, not absolutely bone dry, which I would put at the top of my second division. It is estimated that the quantity of Dom P&#233rignon sold equals more than the combined total of all the other de luxe brands put together. Despite this it really is a top-notch wine, worth every penny of its sadly inflated price.

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(Rated: 1 star) Taittinger

Commune: Reims.
Owner: taittinger family.
Annual Sales: 4.2 million bottles.
vineyard ownership: 250ß ha.

Pierre Taittinger took over the business of Fourneaux Forest in 1932 and the group, now run by his son Claude, has since bought the Champagne house of Irroy and the Loire business of Monmousseau and Bouvet-Ladubay. Taittinger is one of the houses which is better known for its prestige wine—in this case, the excellent Blanc de Blancs, Comtes de Champagne—than for its non-vintage. Brut Absolu is a wine with a nil dosage.

All Taittinger wines, like those of Ruinart, contain a large proportion of Chardonnay in the blend. I find the non-vintage elegant, fruity and reliable. The Comtes de Champagne is very full and rich, not obviously a Blanc de Blancs: a very fine example which lasts well.

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(Rated: 2 stars) Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin

Commune: Reims.
Owner: LVHM.
Annual Sales: 1 million bottles.
vineyard ownership: 280 ha.

The famous widow Clicquot was left on her own with a young daughter in 1805 at the age of twenty-seven. Thanks to the ingenuity of her salesman, Monsieur Bohn, 20,000 bottles reached Saint-Petersburg during the autumn of 1814 (having set off in defiance of a Russian embargo on French imports), where they sold for 12 roubles a piece, and Clicquot soon dominated the Russian market, though at the time it hardly sold at all within France. Madame Clicquot is also credited with the discovery of pupitres in order to facilitate remuage. All the Champagnes are impeccably made, from the non-vintage to the prestige lable, La Grande Dame. The house style is for full, rich and firm wines but not as austere as, say, Bollinger. The non-vintage is consistent and one of the very best. A subsidiary is Canard-Duch&#234ne.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Readers' Notes
List of Maps

The Loire Valley
The Rhône Valley
Provence and Corsica
The Roussillon
The South-West
The Jura and Savoie
Appendix 1. The Starred Domaines
Appendix 2. French Wine Statistics
Appendix 3. Vins de Pays


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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2001

    The title is accurate

    A great book for lovers of French wines. Covers most of the major growers and recent vintages in the principal wine growing regions/appellations. Maps are plentiful. Commentary is excellent. Only complaint is a paucity of detail on each chateaux.

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