Why the French Do It Better


The title, “Why the French Do It Better,” refers to wine. And only to wine.

But, listen: I’ve been accused in Italy of being Francophile when it comes to bottles of wine. My accusers argue that, from a quality point of view, Italian wines are not far from the French ones. Or that the Italian wines are even better.

They ask me, What is the difference?

I say, There are two differences.

The first is that, usually, French wines are more faithful in territorial identity than Italian wines. It’s a fidelity to terroir, where terroir is a set of human, cultural, and even environmental factors.

The second difference is that France has a wide “memory” of history, and of its most important wines. Italy doesn’t have that.

Let me explain with an example.

In the October issue of La Revue Vin de France I read an article about a vertical of Château Figeac’s Saint-Emilion from 1959 to 2011. Fifty vintages in a row!

It’s true that, even in France, few producers can do the same.

But it’s not difficult to buy ten or more vintages from the same producer in Bordeaux. Believe me: I buy and drink a lot of old bottles, and I adore red Bordeaux from the ‘50s, the ‘60s and the ‘70s.

Now, tell me: how many Italian producers can allow me to do the same? Maybe five?

This is the second difference: France has a history of wine in the glass. Italy just doesn’t have it. And still few Italian producers have begun to set aside a good number of bottles of each vintage.

There is a gap to be filled.