Appellation Controlee (AC or AOC) is the top grade of French. AC is a part of French law that guarantees that a wine comes from where the label says it does, that it is made from specific grapes and that it is produced in a certain way. So, first we assume that you are choosing an AC (Appellation Controlee) wine. You will probably have already chosen between red wine, white wine or Rose.
First Quality Rule: Make sure the wine has sufficient alcohol content for its type. This means at least 13% for a Bordeaux, but only 11% for a Gros Plant from the mouth of the Loire. 12-13% for a Tavel Rose from the Rhone Valley; 12% for Anjou Rose from the Loire. Alcohol level is easier to achieve in these days of global warming than it used to be so in some ways this is less of a guide.
Second Quality Rule: Is it Chateau bottled or bottled by the proprietor ? It should be. If it is not then it will probably be a blend from different producers. Not necessarily bad, but not the best. Bottling by a negociant is less acceptable these days than it was. Third Quality Rule: Has the wine ever won any awards ? You need to be looking for gold medals on the label. It seems trivial to non-French people, but if the wine producer thinks well of his wine he will be competing for this kind of award, and will be proud to have the medal on his label. Fourth Quality Rule. Is the bottle numbered ? Here again if the wine producer thinks well of his wine he may take the extra care to number his output and put a serial number on his label. Quite what you can use the numbers for (apart from this wine quality test) is a subject for speculation. Fifth Quality Rule: Is the cork sufficiently long for the wine ? This really applies to wines that may be kept for a long time before drinking, as a long cork preserves the wine more surely. If a short cork was used then there is a question mark against the wine – the producer thought more about his costs than his wine. The only snag about this rule by the way is that the cork is at least partly concealed by the capsul (the metal foil wrapper). Cheers !
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