Between the Lines

Reimagining the wine regions of France

Despite all the terroir talk, few wine drinkers are truly familiar with the geography of wine regions–not to mention the logic behind the designated borders.

Traditional maps of France's A.O.C.s (appellation d'origine controlée) can be bewildering: At first glance, they appear as jagged-edged islands floating within France's borders, seemingly without rhyme or reason.

But there's plenty of history and information hidden behind those lines, which is why David Gissen, an architecture theorist and urbanist, has redrawn the map, transforming it into a useful drinking guide.

By abbreviating distances between regions and simplifying their outlines, Gissen's map ($25; click here to purchase) shows the relative relationship between the A.O.C.s. It suddenly clarifies why, for example, Pinot Noir is grown in Sancerre and Burgundy–they're a short jump from each other.

A quick glance at Beaujolais on Gissen's map reveals that the little-known Loire region Cote Roanaisse is just one space away from the great Gamay vineyards of Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. So the Roanaisse A.O.C. shares both the grape and the granite-heavy soil of the best Cru Beaujolais vineyards (though, fortunately, it doesn't come with the same price tag).

A current Roanaisse favorite: a 750 ml bottle of Robert Serol Gamay for only $14 (click here to buy).