France, Sicily

Wine is being produced throughout France and has been done for over 2,500 years with certain Châteaux dating their history back to Roman times, around 6th Century BC. Ranking second in the world in per-capita consumption and first in total production quantity. More-so than the overall quantity of wine is the quantity of truly great wines coming out of France makes the nation the envy of wine-making nations worldwide.

Two concepts pivotal to the higher end French wines, in particular, are the idea of 'terroir' and the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system. Terroir refers to the way the geography, geology and climate find their way into the glass, telling a story of the origin of the wine. The AOC was set up in 1935 and has the primary goal of protecting the authenticity of the wines and the livelihoods of the producers. Appellation rules strictly define which varieties of grapes and winemaking practices are approved for classification in each of France's several hundred geographically defined appellations, which can cover entire regions, individual villages or in some cases, like in Burgundy even specific vineyards.

Classic wine regions in France include Champagne (home of Champagne), Burgundy (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot), Alsace (Aromatic varietals), Loire Valley (Chenin Blanc, Crémant) and the Rhône Valley (Syrah, Grenache Mourvedre)

The Bordeaux classification of 1855 is still in use, as is the Sauternes and Barsac Classification of the same year. Wines from certain regions can be bought En Primeur, which is when the wine is sold prior to it being bottled.
According to Greek legend, the god of wine Dionysus was the first to have planted a vineyard in Sicily; kick-starting the viticulture of the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It's one of the biggest wine producing regions in Italy with Veneto and Emilio Romagna the only two Italian regions that produce more. In all, the island has an impressive 134,000 hectares under vine although this area is shrinking year by year. This region produces a wide range of wines, both table and dessert wines and the grapes most famously grown there are the Nero d’Avola and Catorrato varietals. Nerello Mascalese is used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine from the volcanic Mt Etna and Frappato is a the main grape of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG.

Sicily is blessed with the most favorable climate. The summers are hot and it hardly rains, and the winters are not that cold and frost is rare. The Mediterranean climate is ideal for growing wine grapes as the coastal winds drying out grapes overnight. Because of the warm and relatively dry climate, there are less risk of rot and mildew among the grapes, so chemical sprays are rarely used. The soil of Sicily is rocky and enriched with minerals that absorb the heat during the day and release it at night, which helps the grape vines maintain an even temperature while the air around it gets cooler.
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