Get confident with the wines of France in this introductory seminar. You’ll learn about the 11 major regions and the best wines to explore.
Getting into French wine is a bit baffling to the neophyte. Firstly, wines are labeled by region instead of grape variety. And, with over 330 regions (called “appellations”) it’s hard to know what’s what. Fortunately, there’s a better way.
Back out of France to the national level and you’ll see that the climate changes drastically from North to South. In the South, you’ll find a prevalence of bolder, fruitier red wines made with grapes like Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.
As you move north (to cooler climates) the focus moves more to zesty white wines, sparkling wines and elegant reds. Think Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Champagne! So, next time you see an appellation listed on the bottle, figure out where it sits in the country, and that’s a big clue as to the style.
The French are master blenders.
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12 Wines of France To Explore
In this video, I select 12 regional wines from all over the country that should give anyone a really good overview of the wines of France.
- Côtes du Rhône / GSM Blend look in the Côtes du Rhône region or neighboring Languedoc for great value. Seek out wines with a dominance of Grenache in the blend.
- Northern Rhône Syrah The homeland of Syrah runs along a thin strip of land that slopes into the Rhône River.
- Provence Rosé Provence is the world’s largest producer (and champion) of rosé wine. Look to the Côtes de Provence regions for excellent quality.
- Red Bordeaux The original homeland of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot cannot be missed. We’ve learned that one side of the Garonne River produces more Cabernet and the other makes more Merlot.
- Beaujolais Technically, this region is part of Burgundy and it’s here where you will find the Gamay grape. If you’re seeking quality, check out a wine from one of the 10 Crus.
- Bourgogne Rouge Pinot Noir’s homeland. Hard to resist these elegant, earthy-yet-floral wines.
- Bourgogne Blanc This is Chardonnay and arguably the best Chardonnay in the world. In the Mâcon and Chablis, you’ll find many amazing unoaked styles. And, if you’re looking for some serious juice, dig into the Côte de Beaune.
- Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) The Loire Valley is where to look for these wines.
- Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc Sauvignon Blanc finds its home in the Loire Valley. Look into the regional wine names for Sauvignon Blanc (like Sancerre) to find great bottles.
- Chinon (Cabernet Franc) In the Loire Valley, Cabernet Franc takes on a distinctly earthy and vegetable-driven styles with flavors of red pepper from the area’s cooler climes. Chinon and Bourgueil are both amazing regional wines to seek out.
- Alsatian Blends Alsace sits on the border of Germany and for that reason, has a focus on single-varietal wines (including Pinot Gris and Riesling). However, if you want to taste the French influence here, pick up a bottle of Pinot d’Alsace or Edelzwicker. The French are master blenders.
- Champagne Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier are the primary grapes here, but the best Champagne houses (called “Maisons”) create a “cuvée” by mixing the best wines together into a house blend sparkling wine.