The French Influence on the Southern Hemisphere

French and southern hemisphere flags

French and southern hemisphere flags

Winemaking has been around for hundreds of years.  We are very familiar with wines coming from Europe, in particular France, where we talk about Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne.  We typically call Europe the “Old World” wine region, while wines made from the southern hemisphere, are known as the “New World“, plus North America.  But where did the grapes come from to make wines in Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, Uruguay, and New Zealand?  They came from Europe.  And of those grapes, a majority were from France.  France has a long-time influence on the types of wines you drink from the Southern Hemisphere.   

Some varieties like Malbec and Carmenere were prominent in Bordeaux blends in the 1800s but fell out of favour after the phylloxera root louse epidemic decimated European vineyards.  South America has many varietals forgotten by Europe. These varietals are now becoming signature grapes for South American countries. Some of the signature varietals are Malbec in Argentina, Carmenere in Chile, and Tannat in Uruguay.

Australia’s Coonawarra is known as the “Bordeaux of Australia”, while the Cape in South Africa is known as the “Old World of the New World’ in winemaking. Cabernet Sauvignon is known as the King of grapes in Chile.  The zippy, herbaceous style of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is also quite identifiable and distinct from wines made from the same grape in France.

The southern hemisphere is now repaying France by bringing back some varietals which were nearly gone in France, such as Carmenere and Viognier. 

French wineries and winemakers have set up wineries in the southern hemisphere, such as Almaviva in Chile which is a joint venture between Concha y Toro, one of Chile’s largest wineries, and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Pierre Lurton, director of Chateau Cheval Blanc in St. Emilion, came to Mendoza in the late 1990s and founded Cheval des Andes, a joint venture between Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes. French winemaker Jean Bousquet visited Argentina in 1990, fell in love with Mendoza, moved there, and started Domaine Bousquet one of the world’s most awarded organic wine producers. French wine giant AdVini has expanded to South Africa with acquisitions in Stellenbosch that include L’Avenir, Le Bonheur, and a majority stake in Ken Forrester Vineyards.  Australia’s Jacob’s Creek and Wyndham Estate are owned by the French company Pernod Ricard. Clos Henri in New Zealand is the wine estate meticulously established and organically run by the Sancerre wine growing family of Henri Bourgeois. There are many more examples I could list. There are also French winemakers flying out to southern hemisphere wineries to help in their grape harvest and vinification.

New World innovation, meets French history, experience, and understanding of terroir with these grapes. 

Here are some of the top French grapes and the southern hemisphere countries that grow a significant amount of each variety. 

Grape Variety Australia New Zealand Chile Argentina South Africa
Chardonnay x x x x x
Chenin Blanc         x
Sauvignon Blanc x x x   x
Merlot   x x x x
Cabernet Sauvignon x   x x x
Malbec       x  
Carmenere     x    
Syrah x     x x
Pinot Noir x x x    

 

French Influence in Southern Hemisphere Wines

French Influence in Southern Hemisphere Wines

I have a few example wines from the southern hemisphere to review for you, covering several of the above grape varieties. The wines that I’m tasting:

  • Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2021 from New Zealand
  • Terre Brûlée le Blanc 2020 (Chenin Blanc) from South Africa
  • Cono Sur Bicicleta Reserva Carmenere 2020 from Chile
  • Yalumba Sanctum Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 from Australia
  • Sophenia Family Altosur Red Blend 2020 from Argentina (50% Malbec, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah)

My Wine Tasting Notes

Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (BC $17.99 on sale till end of April 2022)

Colour: Medium-minus bright, clear straw with a green tinge.
Nose: Pronounced aromas of jalapeno pepper, green beans, guava, lime, and other green fruits, and a touch of peach and apricots.  Same aromas after decanting.
Palate: Dry, medium-plus bright acidity.  Medium-plus body and pronounced fruit flavours.  Lots of jalapenos, green beans, and guava flavours with a touch of floral and peach. The wine has a sharper acidic edge with decanting.  No change in flavours.
Finish: Steely, zesty finish with tart green fruit, jalapeno and green bean flavours.  Then a touch of lingering stone fruits at the very end. Same flavours on the finish.

This wine does not change much at all with decanting, so open and enjoy at your leisure.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars4.5 out of 5 stars A lighter, bright straw colour with a green tinge.  Pronounced aromas of lemon, lime, orange, green fruit and jalapenos, and a touch of stone fruits.  Dry, with medium-plus body and pronounced fruit flavours; jalapenos, green beans, and guava, with a touch of peach and floral.

Terre Brûlée le Blanc 2020 (BC $21.99)

Owners, Tania et Vincent Careme, have dry-farmed, unirrigated bush vines averaging 40 years of age. For the 2019 vintage, the grapes were whole bunch pressed and only natural, wild yeasts were used throughout the winemaking process. Fermentation and aging took place for nine months on its fine lees in stainless steel tanks (40%), wooden tank (40%) and 500 liter new French oak barrels (5% new wood).  I think the 2020 vintage underwent a similar process. 

Colour: Bright, deep golden colour. 
Nose: Light aromas of honey, toast, and baked apple. Similar aromas after decanting, with maybe a touch of butterscotch.
Palate: Dry, medium-plus body, but is soft, lush, thick and round.  It offers a light acidic prickle to the finish.  Baked and crisp apple, plus toast, and a hint of sweet spices and pear with air. A lighter, medium mouthfeel weight with decanting.  Same flavours.
Finish: Medium-plus length finishing with honey, caramel, and baked apple flavours.  Deep flavours.  The acidity continues to the finish. Add some pepperiness and toast on the finish with decanting.

A delightful elegant wine you can enjoy decanted or not.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars A deep, bright gold colour.  Light aromas of honey, toast and baked apple.  Dry, soft and smooth.  Medium-plus body and light acidity. Baked apple, toast, a touch of pear and caramel.

Terre Brulee le Blanc 2020 and Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 with wines in glasses

Terre Brulee le Blanc 2020 and Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 with wines in glasses

Cono Sur Bicicleta Reserva Carmenere 2020 (BC $12.98)

This wine is 85% Carmenere with 15% miscellaneous red grapes. Aged for 10 months in stainless steel tanks.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Reserva Carmenere 2020 with wine in glass

Cono Sur Bicicleta Reserva Carmenere 2020 with wine in the glass

Colour: A medium-intensity clear garnet colour.
Nose: Medium intensity aromas of cinnamon, red cherries, red fruit, raspberries and blackberries, plus cedar.  You also get a touch of curry spice with swirling. With decanting the aromas are more juicy berries, black cherries, oak, and touches of cedar and cinnamon.
Palate: Dry and soft with a lighter mouthfeel.  Lean but gets rounder with air.  Candied cherries, red fruit, raspberries, floral and sweet spices on the palate.  More acidity than tannins on the palate. A medium mouthfeel with decanting and maybe a bit more tartness.  Candied cherries, floral, raspberries, curry spice, and sweet spices on the palate.
Finish: A medium length finishing with tart red fruit and cinnamon flavours, then red cherries at the very end.  Puckering finish. Tart red fruit plus sweet fruit and cinnamon, plus light oak and red cherry flavours on the finish.

A very easy red wine to enjoy, decanted or just opened.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars4.5 out of 5 stars Medium intensity, clear garnet colour.  Medium intensity aromas of red fruit, cinnamon, black cherries and blackberries, plus cedar when opened.  Dry, with a lighter body.  Soft mouthfeel.  A mix of candied cherries, red fruit, raspberries, floral, and sweet spices.  Tart red fruit and cinnamon on the finish. Minimal tannins.

Yalumba Sanctum Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (BC $29.99)

The grapes come from a single vineyard; Menzies Estate Vineyard lies in the heart of Coonawarra on the famous terra rossa soil over limestone.  I believe the label showing the orange line is meant to represent the terra rossa soil. This is a vegan-friendly wine.

Yalumba Sanctum Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 with wine in glass

Yalumba Sanctum Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 with wine in the glass

Colour: Medium-plus clear garnet colour.
Nose: Light aromas of capsicum, dark fruit and blackberries, plus some tea leaves with air. Still light aromas with decanting.  Dark fruit, blackberries and some red cherries.  No capsicum.
Palate: Dry, soft and round, with a light mouthfeel.  A mix of red and black fruit, red cherries, and blackberry flavours, plus a touch of chocolate with air.  Light drying tannins that firm up toward the finish. Smooth, rounder and bigger mouthfeel with decanting.  Capsicum, black and red fruit, red cherries, and now a touch of leather and oak on the palate.
Finish: A medium-minus length, finishing with red cherries, blackberries and tart red fruit flavours, plus capsicum and chocolate with air.  Drying tannins on the finish.  No major changes with decanting other than adding some pepperiness on the finish.

I recommend not to decant this wine as you get more aromatics and flavours.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars4.5 out of 5 stars A medium-plus clear garnet colour.  Light aromas of capsicum, dark fruit and blackberries.  Dry, soft and round with a light mouthfeel.  Mixed flavours of red and black fruit, red cherries and blackberries.  Light tannins that get stronger and become drying on the finish. Red cherries, tart red fruit, blackberries, and capsicum on the finish.

Finca Sophenia Family Altosur Red Blend 2020 (BC $16.99 on sale till end of April 2022)

From the winery, “Fermentation in stainless steel tanks each varietal separately, at a controlled temperature between 25-28 ° C, with the use of selected yeasts. Macerations of 20-21 days… 50% Malbec 40% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Syrah… 3- 4 months ageing in contact with French oak.”

Finca Sophenia Family Altosur Red Blend 2020 with wine in glass

Finca Sophenia Family Altosur Red Blend 2020 with wine in the glass

Colour: Deep garnet colour.
Nose: Lighter aromas of sweet spices, cassis, black fruit, vanilla and a hint of red cherries. Even lighter aromas with decanting.  Sweet spices, cassis, black fruit, and a touch of oak.
Palate: Dry, medium-bodied, smooth and round mouthfeel.  Medium-plus acidity and medium tannins to start.  Mostly red cherries, along with red fruit, black cherry, red plum, blackberries, and touches of black pepper. Vanilla and oak toward the finish.  Same mouthfeel and flavour intensity.  You can add raspberries and candied cherries to the flavours and drop the black pepper.
Finish: Medium length finishing with tart red fruit and red cherries later.  You also get black fruit and some pepperiness with air.  Firmer, drying tannins on the finish. More black fruit flavours, less tart red fruit plus some pepperiness on the finish with decanting.  Still firmer drying tannins.

I prefer the undecanted version of this wine as it has a wider range of aromas and flavours.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Deep garnet colour in the glass.  Lighter aromas of cassis and black fruit, sweet spices, vanilla and a touch of red cherries.  Dry, smooth and round.  Medium-bodied.  Red cherries, candied red fruit with touches of blackberries, black pepper, vanilla and oak flavours.  Firmer drying tannins on the finish.

Where Can I Buy These Wines?

BC Liquor Stores carry these wines:

Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Terre Brûlée le Blanc 2020 

Yalumba Sanctum Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Finca Sophenia Family Altosur Red Blend 2020

Wines available at Everything Wine:

Cono Sur Bicicleta Reserva Carmenere 2020

Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Thank you to Authentic Wine & Spirits Merchants for donating the Terre Brûlée and Cono Sur Bicicleta wines, Pacific Wines & Spirits for donating the Yalumba Sanctum, and Enoteca Bacco Importers of Fine Wines & Spirits for donating the Finca Sophenia Altosur.

Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.