For the French, wine is defined by place. Understanding starts with a region; then the focus tightens down to a single vineyard. With a country so large and diverse, the options become almost infinite, but that’s where the fun begins. Each French wine has its own personality and its own place at the table – as different as the regions of France themselves.
In this article
Lying between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine, this north- eastern region of France is the heartland of opulent, single-varietal white wines. Made from Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner or Muscat, they cover the spectrum from dry to sweet.
Gamay is the beloved grape of the Beaujolais region, just to the south of Burgundy, making fruity, unpretentious reds with bright acidity and low tannins – so easy to match with food. More serious versions come from the ten named crus in the northern hills.
France’s largest wine region is home to the most renowned (and imitated) red blends on the planet. Cabernet Sauvignon stars on the Left Bank of the Garonne River, Merlot on the Right. Local whites include superb sweet Barsac and Sauternes.
Every square inch of Burgundy’s vineyards (and 400 types of soil) has been judged and assessed for more than 600 years – no wonder this is the birthplace of the concept of terroir. It’s also the home of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, here made into wines that set standards for the world.
The chilly chalk hills of Champagne are ideally suited to making sparkling wine from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (whether performing solo or together). The age-old process is long and laborious but the results are divine.
Modern wine-growers delight in experimentation in the great southern region, where vines luxuriate in the hot, bright Mediterranean sun. Ripeness is a given; the goal is to find an accompanying finesse and a true expression of place.
Winding from Auvergne through “the Garden of France” all the way to the Atlantic, the Loire passes many historic winelands where Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet reign supreme. Cabernet Franc gives deliciously light, tangy reds.
France’s oldest wine region (2,600 years and counting) is also the only one to specialize in rosé – pastel- coloured, dry, refreshing wines with a streak of minerality that perfectly suit the sun-soaked, laid- back Provençal life-style.
Syrah and Viognier are king and queen of the northern valley, but 95 percent of Rhône wine comes from the south, where Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre revel in the Mediterranean climate. Blending creates rich, hearty reds and robust whites and rosés.
Food & Drink Canada - Autumn 2022