Land and Wine: The French Terroir by Charles Frankel is a good introduction to the terroir and wine styles of the main French wine regions. The regions covered, in order, are Savennières and the broader Anjou region, Beaujolais, Alsace, the Mâconnais and Pouilly-Fuissé, Corton and other Burgundy regions, Sancerre and the Upper Loire, the central Loire including Bourgueil, Chinon and Saumur, Provence, Languedoc, Champagne, Bordeaux and the Rhône valley.
Now you might think it odd for a book about French wine regions should start with Savennières (even though it is an amazingly beautiful place producing wonderful Chenin Blanc wines). However there is a reason. The author concentrates in the book on the geology of the regions and how this contributes to the terroir, so he starts with the oldest rocks of all, the ancient Silurian schists, basalts and rhyolites that form outcrops in this stunning area and date back almost 450 million years.
For each of the appellations covered there is not only a description of the geology and other elements of the terroir such as aspect, vegetation, climate and soils, but he also includes a handy table with a summary of wine types and production details and even other information such as best serving temperature and the ageing potential of the wines.
Some sections of the book are particularly interesting. For example in the section on the Languedoc there is a fascinating account of the life of Saint Benoit d’Aniane and his contribution to the growth of the vineyards in that area in the late 8th Century. There is also an excellent section on the terroir of Saint Chinian (with its ancient slate which is so conducive to the production of great Carignan wines) and the dinosaur skeletons that have been found here. (We think he may have a dinosaur fetish because he also writes about dinosaur eggs in the Marseille area in his section on Provence).
The section on Provence is also interesting because he covers some of the lesser known areas such as the Cassis appellation where we have often tried some beautiful white wines that go so well with the local seafood dishes such as bourride. He also points out that this appellation covers less area than Central Park in New York!
This is a highly readable book and well worth adding to your library. Click on the link below to order it.