Wine traditions are a big part of the wine business and wine appreciation. We’ll start with American wine traditions and French wine traditions. Trying excellent wines from different wine regions will discover new customs different from American wine culture. The world is full of excellent wine traditions, so take your time and explore!
American Wine Traditions
American wine culture dates back to the 19th century, though some grape growers started earlier. This guide to American wine culture will show how domestic wineries and others shaped American wine.
American Oak Barrels
While French oak is the default choice for many winemakers, using American oak has been a part of American wine culture for a long time. Generally speaking, American oak makes Merlot tasty. Many beautiful wines in America (and elsewhere) do not use oak aging. For white wines like Chardonnay, I love the effect of oak aging, but your taste may be different.
Wine Labels That List Grapes
American wine drinkers tend to focus on the wine grape when shopping for wine. As a result, most American wine bottle labels list the grape variety (e.g., Merlot or Pinot Noir). In comparison, most French wine bottles do not list the specific grape. Instead, French wine bottles focus on wine production details like the village or wine.
Using Champagne As A Generic Term For Sparkling Wines
Technically speaking, only wine produced in the champagne wine region can be described as Champagne. The French wine business has been fiercely dedicated to protecting the champagne name. However, American wine culture is a bit different! Quite a few sparkling wines produced in the US have been marketed as Champagne.
Large Wine Production of Petite Syrah and Petit Verdot
Many different French grapes have become popular worldwide, like Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. American grape growers have adopted two French grapes – Petite Syrah and Petit Verdot. As a result, it is easier to find these wine varieties in the US compared to France.
Free-flowing wine is a common expectation for many wedding guests in the US. Wine at weddings has become even more popular as independent wineries offer to serve as a wedding venue. This tradition has become so popular that there are specialized companies like Run Away With Me that help you plan your special day in wine country.
Summer Wine Festivals and Events
Wine pros know that summer events like the Finger Lakes Wine Festival and Music in the Vineyards are some of the best ways to experience wine in the US. Sure, Europe and other wine countries have wine celebrations, but American wine culture has taken these traditions to a whole new level.
American Grapes Varieties That Saved The World
There is an American wine movement to cultivate local wine grapes. A specific American wine grape, vitis riparia, has a special place in wine history. In the 19th century, European wine makers were almost wiped out by Phylloxera. Thankfully, creative wine makers came up with an amazing solution. Combine the Vitis vinifera grape plant, the species behind every traditional grape variety you’ve heard of, to vitis riparia.
Most of the wonderful wines you enjoy today, whether they grow in clay soils, Portlandian soils or something else, exist thanks to this American wine grape. Without it, the ancient wine traditions of France and other countries in Europe may have been lost.
French Wine Culture
Many people take wine inspiration from France since the country is legendary for both food appreciation and fine wines. With so many famous wine brands and producers, French wine traditions in organic farming, wine pairing tips, and artisan winemakers influence global trends.
Quality Wine Laws and Regulation
French wine country produces exceptional wine for a few reasons (and it is my pick for what country has the best wine). A key reason is that France has systematically encouraged, rewarded, and regulated wine for centuries. In particular, 19th-century wines in France received a significant boost from the 1855 classification. In the 2000s, the country’s famous wine standards were further updated. To discover more about French wine and their impact on price, see my post Why Are French Wines Expensive?
Wine Pairing Tips
The French passion for food appreciation means that many traditional wine pairing tips are based on French tradition. For example, France has developed many of the world’s most famous types of cheese. Many popular cheese and wine pairings like hard cheeses and red burgundy or blue cheese and Sauternes became famous thanks to French wine traditions.
The Beaujolais Nouveau Annual Release
The latest Beaujolais Nouveau wines are released on the third Thursday of every November. This French wine tradition creates excitement for wine lovers across the world. The event is celebrated with events across France and around the world. Beaujolais Nouveau wines are famously light and easy to drink, making them a great wine for people new to French wine.
By tradition, the Gamay grapes in Beaujolais Nouveau wine are picked by hand. However, increasing labor costs may end this tradition in the future.
British Wine Customs
Britain’s wine traditions are significant because they have had a vast influence. For example, Canada and the United States have both been influenced by British wine traditions.
Christmas Wine Traditions
There are two popular British wine traditions: mulled wines and fortified wines. Mulled wines, also known as spiced wine, combine red wine with spices and warm up the wine as a treat. Learn more about how to make spicy red wine in this guide.
Britain’s other famous wine tradition is drinking fortified wines during the holidays. In the holiday wines category, port wine from Portugal has been famous in Britain for centuries. These strong wines tend to have a relatively high alcohol content, so they are perfect for sipping on a cold winter night. To discover more about port wines, see my guide to what is tawny port.
Wine Traditions In Summary
Wine traditions and history are why I’ve been interested in wine for so long. When I spend time in wine shops, I feel connected to the ancient wine practices of France, America, Canada, and other countries. I may not have the chance to visit Basque vineyards anytime soon but the chance to experience these wines with a visit… Well, that’s the essence of “Travel By Glass.”
Participating in wine traditions is a fun way to deepen your appreciation of food and wine. However, don’t let this history hold you from developing your traditions. For example, you might open a bottle of rose wine on the first day of summer (use this guide to learn how to open cork wine) to celebrate the season. Or you might enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to remind yourself of a trip to New Zealand.
This post was updated on June 21, 2022.