Archaeological evidence has established the earliest-known production of wine from fermenting grapes during the late Neolithic or early Chalcolithic in the Caucasus and the northern edge of the Middle East. An extensive gene-mapping project in 2006 analyzed the heritage of more than 110 modern grape cultivars, narrowing their origin to a region of Georgia.
It is such a familiar wine, almost a synonym for a not-too-fancy French red. Yet few wines can match Côtes du Rhône in exemplifying the myriad changes that have transformed the French wine industry in the last 20 years.
French winemakers, in their full-on selling mode, love to tell a story in which they serve their own invariably modest wares along with some competitors’ expensive, highly rated bottles. Everybody loves the expensive wines on first taste, but at the end of the meal, the winemakers recount with pride, the other guys’ bottles are still three-quarters full while their own have been drained dry and second bottles opened.