by Rod Phillips, author of French Wine: A History
I’ve been a big fan of French wine since I was a teenager in New Zealand in the 1960s and started collecting wines. My prizes were two bottles of 1953 Château La Tour-Carnet, a fairly prestigious producer. When I bought them in 1966, each bottle cost about the price of a hamburger because, as the retailer said, “they’re old.” Over the years, I’ve drunk wines from scores of countries and hundreds of regions, but French wine still fascinates me. I’ve often said that if I were stranded on a desert island and could have wine from only one country, it would be France.
So writing a history of French wine was even more pleasurable than writing my other books. I was able to immerse myself in 2,500 years of French wine and understand how it got to where it is now. Sure, it faces competition from wines from all over the world, and not many people outside France still think that if a wine is French, it must be good. Even so, no country’s grape harvests get as much media attention as France’s, each vintage in Bordeaux and Burgundy is examined as if it’s an oracle, and French wine regions are still the benchmarks for grape varieties and wine styles. If you’ve talked to winemakers, you’ll know how often they brag that their pinot noir or chardonnay is made in “a Burgundian style.”