A matter of choice So, you have the choice between a French wine and a Californian wine.
The Gauls definitely have the one-up, timewise, of course, but like anything else which is better, is a matter of opinion.
Connoisseurs simply map out the differences between California and French wine traditions.
For starters, most French wine is not identified by grape, but by region or village. California wine is usually identified by varietal.
Next, many great French wines are mixtures of two, three or more grapes. Down the years, vintners have found out how to bring out the best qualities of their territories by trial and error.
Another difference is the extent to which the French government "intervenes" in the winemakers' activities, such as restricting yields, specifying alcohol content and dictating pruning methods.
Classification is a big deal in France. Only the best wine -- that from specific growing areas and processed in specific ways -- is entitled to the highest classification.
These wines command the best prices, and so on for lower tiers.
Lower tiers encounter less intervention, but still have to pass yearly taste tests.
The French are also fond of vin de pays, or vin de table, which is lower priced, but sometimes very acceptable to the palate.
Tasting in France is a more formal affair, too.
The main differences are that the wineries are quite small and are usually not set up for large numbers of visitors, hence family members may end up greeting and pouring wine at tastings.
-- gathered by Quentin Roux