FRANCE, GERMANY & AUSTRIA
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STATION SAYS: France is the traditionally recognised home of wine, containing the behemoth regions of Bordeaux (Cab Sauv, Merlot & others), Burgundy (Pinot Noir & Chardonnay), The Rhône (Syrah, Grenache & friends), The Loire Valley (Chenin, France, Muscadet, Sauv Blanc & others) and Champagne (Sparkling), though there are many other totemic appellations of the wine world found here. France introduced the first appellation laws to protect against imitators, but at times it constrains producers. They are traditional in their methods and prioritise terroir above all else (terroir is one of many nonsense wine words, it refers to the wine’s immediate and unique environment including soil, aspect, microclimate etc).
Germany is the spiritual home of Riesling. There is a typically methodical and complicated system of grading the sweetness of their Riesling through several quality levels. If you want a dry Riesling, look for the word trocken on the label as this is German for dry. Another top tip is to look at the alcohol content. Low alcohol (10% or lower) means that not all the sugar has been converted to alcohol = residual sugar = sweetness in the wine.
Remember the episode of the Simpsons when Bart goes to France and witnesses antifreeze going into wine? That actually happened in France not Austria (presumably Americans would have been expecting kangaroos and crocodiles if it were left as Austria). This scandal in the mid 80’s decimated the industry and several key producers and players. Austria now has some of the toughest laws governing production in the world but the industry is led by dynamic youngsters and winemaking is largely progressive. Gruner Veltliner is the key white grape of choice.