Buying French wine can be a mysterious adventure. The labels seem like those cryptic crosswords – confined only to those in the know.
The old world French tradition of labelling wines by the region makes it difficult for modern consumers to understand what is in the bottle. There has, however, been a shift in the last few years. More French wines are telling us about grape varieties on the label. Hurray for the international consumer.
Being able to pick a nice French red wine could be the reward of a lifetime of study. Most of us, however, would like to enjoy a French red without being forced to memorize all the regions and the associated wines.
At the same time, it’s not that difficult to understand the basics of French wine labeling. The wine regions of France dictate the type of grapes used to make the wine. The types of grapes dictate the style of wine produced.
Anyone can increase their chances of knowing what they are buying with the knowledge of a few common regions.
If a Pinot Noir is what you are after, get your wine from the Burgundy region, also known as Bourgogne. Wines from Gamay grapes are found in this region as well. The wines are characterized by light-to-medium body with heaps of juicy bright fruit flavors. Good with fish and fowl, these are great patio sippers too.
The most famous vineyards of France are found in Bourdeaux. Bourdeaux wines are big bold wines with well developed tannins, and are usually made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Generally considered a food wine, Bourdeaux is great with hearty meat dishes.
Another French region on Luckys shelves is Cotes du Rhone, also called Rhone Valley or simply Rhone. This is the home of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blends. They can also include Carignon, Cinsault and up to 20 other lesser known grapes. These are beautiful wines that satisfy all aspects of the palate. Cotes du Rhone produces a deliciously informal wine that compliments many foods, including pizza!
Down by the Mediterranean Sea is Languedoc, often referred to as “the wine lake” because of its copious wine production. Good luck picking a wine from that region as it grows everything! Some great Rhone blends as well as rich Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots are produced in Languedoc. Languedoc vintners actually indicate grape varieties on their labels and their wines represent excellent value.
I hope this column will guide you through our French wine selections, and please don’t hesitate to check with Luckys sales staff to find the right French wine for you. Cheers to our everyday wine drinker who ventures out to consume some wonderful French wines!