Why I prefer French Wines
Upon returning from Israel where I lived and worked on Kibbutz Na'an, I chose to spend several weeks in France, both in Paris and surrounding smaller cities including the countryside in Bordeaux. What I found is that once one gets out of Paris, where Parisians are not particularly fond of Americans, the people are extremely friendly and appreciative of Americans. My aunt Ruth is French, and so my cousins all were exposed to the language at an early age. I grew into French peripherally, and speak enough to get along.
There are ten major wine growing regions in France, plus a number of smaller areas. There is commercial wine production in every region of France, except for the five regions bordering on France's north coast.
The appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), which translates as "controlled designation of origin", is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau Institut national des appellations d'origine, now called Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO). The INAO guarantees that all AOC products will hold to a rigorous set of clearly defined standards. The organization stresses that AOC products will be produced in a consistent and traditional manner with ingredients from specifically classified producers in designated geographical areas. The products must further be aged at least partially in the respective designated area.
You do not see these kinds of stringent controls on wine production from almost any other country. You may produce an excellent sparkling wine, but unless it comes from the Champagne region of France, you cannot call it "Champagne".
The other reason I prefer France is because of the incredible depth of art and culture that has emanated from it for centuries.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, American writers, musicians, and artists have chosen to reside in Paris, France, for a variety of economic and artistic reasons. Beginning with Gertrude Stein in the first decade of the century and reaching its apex during the era between the two World Wars, American writers expatriated to Paris seeking to take advantage of the city's inexpensive cost of living, as well as European openness to less socially restrictive lifestyles and more experimental literature.
Active duty in World War I introduced Paris to many American writers, musicians, and artists, including Ernest Hemingway and e. e. cummings, who returned to France after the war. The following two decades found such writers as Archibald MacLeish, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, Hart Crane, Sinclair Lewis, and Henry Miller living in Paris. Artists, musicians, and writers from other countries also helped make Paris a cultural Mecca. Such writers as Ford Madox Ford, Wyndham Lewis, H. D., D. H. Lawrence, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce; visual artists Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, and Luis Bueñuel; and music composers George Antheil and Virgil Thompson relocated to Paris during this period, influencing and helping to advance such literary movements as modernism, Vorticism, surrealism, and Dadaism.
There are certainly some excellent wines from California and other countries. But I'll stick with French wine whenever possible. You can often buy a very drinkable bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau for ten dollars. My current favorite is Margaux. if you like good wine, please try some before you die. You'll thank me.