A French Wine Primer
Written by Erika Pitera
Whether you are a wine connoisseur or a novice experimenting in the world of wine tasting, there is much to learn about the appellation and vinification of French wines.
This is a brief introduction to France's best-known growing regions and the fabulous wines they produce.
French wines are classified by the region in which they are grown, rather than by the predominant grape like their American counterparts.
Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire Valley, and Rhone are the most popular wine-producing regions in France.
Sparkling wines from the Champagne region are named after the chateaux that produced them.
Most champagnes are made from a white Chardonnay grape or a red Pinot Noir grape. Champagnes are further classified as brut or "dry." Champagnes accompany all foods well, but they pair especially well with cheeses and desserts.
The Bordeaux & Burgundy Regions
Bordeaux is the second best-known wine-producing region of France. Bordeaux are red wines, made primarily from Cabernet and Merlot grapes, and they are full-bodied with layered, fruity flavors. Bordeaux are also classified by smaller regions (Saint-Emilion and Pomerol), and they are named after the chateaux where they are produced. Pair Bordeaux wines with savory lamb and duck dishes.
In Burgundy, wines are often produced by small estates, and they are named for the subregion (Beaune, Pommard and Chablis), instead of a single chateau.
Red Burgundies, usually made from Pinot Noir grapes, feature fruity notes like raspberry, blackberry, cherry and currant.
Locals pair red Burgundies with rabbit and beef. White Burgundies, made of Chardonnay grapes, feature subtle tones of nuts and honey. Pair white Burgundies with seafood and poultry.
Loire Valley & The Rhone Region
White wines from Loire Valley are usually made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Loire Valley wines range from dry and oaky to crisp and dry. Popular Loire Valley wines include Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre, which pair well with pork and soft cheeses.
The Rhone wine region, located in the warm, southern part of France, is divided into northern and southern regions. Rhone wines are available in red and white, and Syrah (red) and Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne grapes (white) are predominant.
With over twelve varieties of grapes in the southern region, Rhone wines are often blends of several kinds of grapes. Rhone wines pair well with red meat, poultry and seafood.