While the big draw for many people to the Vancouver International Wine Festival this year was sparkling wine, and French Champagne, specifically, there were many other wonderful wines to sample. For this article, since France was the Theme Country, I would like to concentrate on their wines, sans Champagne. My Champagne article is here.
Every region in France is known for their signature red and white grapes. Bordeaux has Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (among other grape varieties); Burgundy has Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; the Loire Valley has Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, and so on. But these grape varieties are not listed on their wine labels; rather you may get a village or a vineyard name for example. To help you out with the regions and their grapes, I’ve put together the next section, followed by my French wine picks. I hope this helps you. Please print a copy of this article so you have this “cheat sheet” of grapes for France, and bring it along with you when you go to your liquor store, whether private or government.
Major Regions and Grapes of France
Although not a definitive list, this list I think has most of the grapes that you will commonly come across in the different wine regions of France.
|Region||White Grapes||Red Grapes|
Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Muscat
|Beaujolais||Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc||Gamay Noir|
|Bordeaux||Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon|| Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc,
Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carménère
|Burgundy||Chardonnay, Aligoté||Pinot Noir|
|Champagne||Chardonnay||Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier|
|Languedoc-Roussillon||Roussanne, Marsanne, Picpoul,
Macabéo, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay
|Grenache, Syrah, Carignan,
Cinsault, Mourvedre, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
|Loire||Chenin Blanc, Melon de
Marsanne, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon
Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah
|Rhône||Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier||Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault,
Counoise, Grenache, Mourvedre
|South West France||Colombard, Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ungi Blanc||Tannat, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc|
My French Wine Picks
- Domaine Joseph Mellot Sancerre Joseph Mellot La Grande Chatelaine 2010 – Light vanilla and pear aromas. Soft with a light mouthfeel. Stone fruit, citrus and minerality. An easy sipping wine.
- Hugel & Fils Riesling 2012 – Light citrus/lime nose. Round and soft with an acidic backbone. Stone fruit and honey flavours. Nice.
- Pfaffenheim Pinot Gris 2012 – Nice honey and peach aromas. Off dry, soft with medium minus acidity. Stone fruit flavours.
- Chateau de Sancerre Blanc 2012 – Nice stone fruit and melon aromas. Higher acidity. Green and citrus flavours. Dry on the palate.
- Maison Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2010 – Very light intensity citrus and vanilla aromas. Medium body, round, soft and silky on the palate. Tropical fruit with sweet spice and vanilla flavours. Medium acidity. Mouth watering, crisp apple finish. A wonderful wine.
- Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Barberini Blanc 2009 – Light honeyed stone fruit nose. Medium minus body. Sweet spices and tropical fruit flavours. Very tasty.
- Marrenon Grand Marrenon Blanc 2011 – Light stone fruit with a whiff of petrol on the nose. Sweet spices and quite fruity with stone fruit flavours. Soft mouth feel.
- Chateau de Sancerre Rouge 2011 – A rarity to see a red Sancerre, this one is made from 100% Pinot Noir. Nice violet aromas. Light body with violets and tea leaves. Medium minus tannins with a hint of oak on the finish.
- Famille Perrin Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2011 – Ripe, juicy dark fruit nose. Medium body, juicy raspberry and dark fruit with a hint of spice behind and some minerality. Fine tannins. Very good quality.
- Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Villages Carianne Peyre Rouge 2011 – Caramel and red fruit aromas. Medium body with ripe red and black fruit. Soft mouth feel. Very tasty.
- Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Reserve Secrete 2009 – Very nice aromas of sweet cherries and vanilla. Full body, soft and dry. Medium tannins. Tea leaves, menthol, red fruit and vanilla on the palate.
- Val d’Orbieu Coteaux du Languedoc Chateau Notre Dame du Quatourze Nautica 2011 – Interesting nose with dusty leather. Slight flower, caramel and ripe dark and red fruits on the palate.
Some of these wines are available in private liquor stores and some at the government specialty stores. The government liquor stores are having a special event focus on the wines of France for the month of March, so if you are interested in trying some French wines, I suggest visiting a government liquor store before the end of this month. Enjoy!