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French wines

 

An introduction to France - Lucy Clements(French wine buyer)

  • I've always been fascinated by the diversity of the French wine regions. It is the true home of winemaking, full to the brim of rich history and famous vineyards. I've spent a lot of time roaming the wondrous wine country of France and have fallen in love with every inch of it. There is so much to explore that it can seem overwhelming when faced with the challenge of choosing a wine from France. Just hover over the regions and all the fabulous wine secrets will be revealed!

 
 
 
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Loire

Grape Varieties:

Red: Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pinot Noir

White: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne

Sub-regions:

Anjou, Muscadet, Sancerre, Pouilly'Fumé, Vouvray, Saumur, Chinon

History:

Winemaking came to the Loire Valley in the fifth century, and was developed over the next thousand years by the majestic leaders of France and England. In seeking out quality worthy of royal palates, these winemakers created highly renowned wineswith a rich diversity of flavours.

Taste:

Loire Valley wine lovers immediately notice the unique quality behind the region's broad range of appellations. This diversity goes back to the vineyards' variety of soils (shale, limestone and sand) influenced heavily by the Loire River and the Atlantic Ocean at the western edge of the region, creating crisp, fruity wines.

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Bordeaux

Grape Varieties:

Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère

White: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Sauvignon Gris, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Merlot Blanc, Ondenc and Mauzac

Sub-regions:

Saint-émilion, Pomerol, Médoc and Graves

History:

With a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares, Bordeaux is the largest fine wine district on Earth and dates back as far as the Romans, with the first vines being planted in the mid-1st century.

Taste:

The main reason for the success of winemaking in Bordeaux is the impeccable environment for growing vines. Its position near the Atlantic Ocean provides a moderate and stable climate. Combined with Europe's largest forest, on the ocean side and to the southprotecting it from strong salt winds and rainfull, the red wines produced are full-bodied ambassadors for the region.

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Burgundy

Grape Varieties:

Red: Pinot Noir, Gamay

White: Chardonnay, Aligoté

Sub-regions:

Côte d'Auxerre (Chablis), Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, Beaujolais

History:

The Burgundy wine region's rich history stretches back many centuries involving revolutions, churches and the government with the first documented vineyard planted in 300 AD.

Taste:

Burgundy has a higher number of AOCs than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions.Because of its unique terroir the Burgundy region excels in both white and red wines. The soils of Burgundy are extremely varied, in their richness, depth, and mineral content creating creamy whites and deliciously fruity, light reds.

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South West

Grape Varieties:

Red: Abouriou, Bouchalès, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Duras, Fer, Jurançon, Malbec, Merlot, Portugias Bleu, Tannat, Négrette

White: Arrufiac, Baco Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Colombard, Courbu, FolleBlanche, GrosManseng, Len de l'El, Muscadelle, Petit Manseng, Raffiat de Moncade, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, UgniBlanc

Sub-regions:

Dordogne river areas, Garonne river areas, Gascony, Basque Country

History:

The south-west region was first cultivated by the Romans and had a flourishing wine trade long before the Bordeaux area was planted. As the port city of Bordeaux became established, wines from the "High Country" would descend via the tributaries of the Dordogne and Garonne to be sent to markets along the Atlantic coast.

Taste:

The climate of the inland region is generally warmer and more favourable than in Bordeaux, allowing the grapes to be harvested earlier and the wines tend to be of a stronger alcohol level but refined.

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Languedoc

Grape Varieties:

Red: Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvedre

White: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Muscat of Alexandria

Regions:

Clairette du Languedoc, Faugères, St-Chinian, Minervois, Corbières

History:

The history of Languedoc wines can be traced to the first vineyards planted along the coast by the early Greeks in the fifth century BC. Along with parts of Provence, these are the oldest planted vineyards in France.

Taste:

With a Mediterranean climate, summers are hot and dry. Winters tend to be mild with days rarely below freezing. Occasionally referred to as the California of France, the region also enjoys more than 300 sunny days a year yielding smooth, oaky and fruity wines.

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Rhône

Grape Varieties:

Red: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre.

White: Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier

Sub-regions:

Northern Rhône, Southern Rhône

History:

Côtes du Rhône was with Provence the first region to produce wine in France. Vine growers coming from Marseille as far back as 600 BC planted the first vines.

Taste:

Steep slopes carved into granite hills with vines hanging on almost vertical surfaces, surround Northern Rhône. Principallyknown for its red wine, you can also find some rare whites too.

Moving south, the steep slopes turn into a wide valley floor that absorbs the heat in the summer months. A great source for everyday red wines but with small amounts of fantastic quality wines too.

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