Getting to know French wines
French wines tend to be baffling for some people. They don't want to be the bottles that have words hard to pronounce, or sellers, sometimes don’t want to explain why these wines are made in that way and why they have certain labels, and why they don’t have other labels.
Certainly, there are differences between French wine and American wines. French wine is part of a tradition that links local wines with local foods, so, French wines, like all European wines, are principally intended to be consumed with food.
For this reason, the flavor profiles of French wines go beyond the fruit and warm richness of oak, to include a spirited acidity, fruitier tannins and a sense of place or terroir, as the French would say, that gives it an earthy and mineral touch.
Then, there is the fact that we feel more comfortable with labels that list the type of grape used for making the wine, and many French wines skip this parameter on their labels. The reason behind this, is that the type of grape is not as important for French wines as it is for other countries, in fact, wine connoisseurs in France take their attention to the place of origin instead of the grape varieties.
All the grapes that are pretty famous, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Merlot, are standard grapes in France. These types of grapes are the most successful in a lot of wine regions around the world. They are known as international varieties for that reason. Wherever these grapes are made into wine outside of France, the French model as a reference is often the goal to achieve a perfect wine.
So… Don’t you want a glass of wine?
France uses a system of “appellation” of wines (places where wines are produced). It is known as Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) which stands for “Controlled Designation of Origin”. This system could seem complex, and that may be because we can’t establish a connection between the grape variety and the place, however, in France, each region is closely associated with certain types of grape, once we have this clear, French wine becomes easier to understand.
What is an “appellation”? This is a French word that refers to a particular agricultural production area within a geographic region. There are appellations for cheese, chicken and meat products, as well as for wine in all France.
They decided as a nation in the 1930s that food and beverage products taste in a certain way, based on where they are made. Since the French came up with this idea, all other wine-producing countries have adopted a similar system. In America we have AVA, American wine areas.
In France, some particular grapes are used by law in each region, while other grapes are excluded. This makes it quite easy to identify the type of grape in a particular wine, if you know where it came from. The vast majority of fine wine in France comes from one of the main regions.
Other less famous French wines
There are also wines that have specific town names on their label, and wines with the Premier and Grand Cru labels, those ones come from particular town vineyards.
Do you like Chardonnay or Pinot Noir? Well, all white Burgundy wines are made entirely from Chardonnay and all red Burgundy wines are made entirely from Pinot Noir. It's that easy! Individual properties in Burgundy are called Domaines and are often owned by a family
You can drink basic Burgundy, Village-level Burgundy, or Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines that come from specific historic vineyards.
Main regions in France where wine is produced
The main producing areas of France are: Alsace, protected by the Vosges that borders it from north to south, stands out for its white wines made with varieties such as Gewürtztraminer, Muscat d’Alsace or Pinot Blanc. Beaujolais, occupies a wide area, from the south of Mâcon to the surroundings of Lyon. Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine that should be drunk young.
The Rhone Valley is located in southern France and was founded by Greek and Roman settlers more than two thousand years ago. They were great at wine and established the predominant grapes from the start. The entire region produces much more red wine than white. The red wines of the Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Cornas and Crozes Hermitage appellations are mostly 100% Syrah.
The Loire Valley runs through northern France. The grape scheme is not that simple, but it is still established as a tradition. In this area, white wines are more produced than red, this is because it is cooler in the north of the country.
Some recommendations for choosing French wines
Hourglass Blueline Estate Cabernet 2016
The Hourglass Blueline Estate Cabernet 2016 is a highly recommended choice, which by the way, is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite balanced, it offers an incredibly complex profile of smooth fruit, horse hide, pipe tobacco, and violets. A light balsamic edge lingers well on the palate, leading to a finish of black pepper, (very) dark chocolate, and sour blackberry. Ideal for those lovers of intense and strong tastes.
Rene Geoffroy Ratafia
Ratafía is one of the most unknown liqueurs and curiously, one of the oldest distillates in Europe, dating back to the beginning of the 13th century. Its elaboration began as a way of preserving the grape must, blocking fermentation by adding alcohol, thus keeping it perfectly for years, while safeguarding its fruity touches. The Rene Geoffroy Ratafia It is produced using the three characteristic grapes of Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which are harvested carefully, with the whole bunches to preserve their quality until the moment they are delicately pressed to release their juice slowly.
La Moussière Sancerre 2016
Alphonse Mellot is the maker of Alphonse La Moussière Sancerre 2016, a white wine from the appellation Sancerre, with bunches of Sauvignon Blanc from the 2016 vintage. Golden, green reflections with floral and fruity aromas. For pairing it is recommended as an aperitif, with fish, mollusks, crustaceans and cheeses.
We hope that this article has contributed to the advancement of your knowledge in the exciting world of wine. Either you’re an expert or newbie, there is no doubt that these three French wines are some of the best choices that France has to offer, speaking about wines, of course. Remember that you can find these bottles on the Miami online wine store “finding.wine”. Until next time!
- Fabianni Posteraro