The Trade Marked French Wine…

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“But I thought I could call my Australian made sparkling wine Champagne”

By: Chris Fabri

Have you ever seen a super old bottle of Australian wine labeled Red Burgundy, Rhone Riesling or Claret? Maybe Penfold’s or Lindeman’s made it back in the day?

It would have been before the French certified their regions under their appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). Apple what? Pretty much, controlled designation of origin is what that translates to. Controlled what?

So… in its simplest form the reason we can’t call Australian made sparkling wine champagne is because it’s not from Champagne, the same with Red & White Burgundy! Champagne and Burgundy are regions in France that produce the same varietals many Australian wineries produce – Hence having their AOC defining their wine and region.

When these wineries produced those old wines that were labeled Burgundy it was just a mixture of different varietals, predominately being Shiraz. If you have had the pleasure of drinking Burgundian wines one thing you will notice is that they’re not shiraz, they are Pinot Noir.

This brings me to remembering an old bottle of Lindeman’s Red Burgundy 1969 that I shared with some friends on a trip away in Anglesea. It’s funny how you always remember the company and setting when enjoying old wine! Now because the label read Burgundy we automatically assumed it was Pinot Noir… could not have been more wrong! After some research and consulting some wine savvy friends we later found out it was Shiraz and perhaps had a wee bit of Pinot Noir in it. This, I understand, for after all Australia back in that time period had widely planted Shiraz.

So when you pick up a bottle of French made wine you won’t see what the varietal is, nope not one mention of which grape juice you will be drinking; Shiraz, Cabernet, Chardonnay, it won’t be on the label. What the label will read is the producer, the year, the region and sub region in France with no mention of the grape. This knowledge of the region is crucial and only comes from drinking its wine. Here are some simple labels and what they produce:

  • Red Burgundy: makes some of the best Pinot Noir in the world, but there are sub-regions that produce different styles.
  • White Burgundy: Chardonnay in all its many facets.
  • Red Bordeaux: Typically made from Cabernet and Merlot, depending on which side of the Garrone river it came from – Left Bank is predominately Cabernet Sauvignon whilst the right is Merlot.
  • White Bordeaux: Think Hougton’s White Classic… what! Grape varietals include Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.
  • Rhone Red: Mainly Shiraz but may include Grenache.
  • Rhone White: Viognier (pronounced Vi-on-yay!), which is a great wine for blending with Shiraz (only 5%).

Happy (expensive) drinking!

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