French Wine

//French Wine

French Wine

Few would disagree that, when it comes to wine, France is near the top in both quantity produced as well as overall quality. French wines run the entire spectrum of flavors and styles and there are numerous types for almost any palate or individuals taste. Understanding the vast array of French wines is often daunting at best. In the so called “New World” of wine, North and South America, wines for the most part are labeled by the grapes that the wine is made from. We have our shelves laid out by Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, etc. France, which is part of the “Old World” of wine along with most of Europe, labels most of the wines produced by the location of the vineyards or the name of the specific property. Most of the Vineyards in France were planted during the Roman occupation of Gaul, that’s a lot of time to determine which grapes grow best in which location. That is one of the keys to why French wines are so good, and why to “Old World” wine aficionados the term Terroir, which can be translated as “a sense of place” is so important. There are no shortcuts for centuries of trial and error.

Here is a short primer on which grapes are used predominately in the more popular regions of France.

  • Alsace: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir.
  • Beaujolais: Gamay.
  • Bordeaux Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot.
  • Bordeaux White: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle.
  • Burgundy Red: Pinot Noir.
  • Burgundy White: Chardonnay.
  • Champagne: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier.
  • Languedoc-Roussillon Red: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.
  • Languedoc-Roussillon White: Viognier, Vermentino, Chardonnay.
  • The Loire White: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne.
  • The Loire Red: Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay.
  • The Rhone Red: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre.
  • The Rhone White: Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier.
  • The Southwest Red: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tannat.
  • The Southwest White: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle.

Find a grape variety that you’re fond of and try a French version or two, the Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux will taste different than the Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. Just remember, in Europe wine is food, where would we be if we never experienced French food?