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June 29, 2016
We take a vinous tour around the many diverse wine regions of France.
France is regarded as the greatest wine-producing nation in the world – and with good reason. The wines of Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire and Rhône valleys remain the ones that winemakers around the world are keen to emulate. They are the benchmarks. And while the labelling of French wines can be confusing – the French tend to use regions rather than grape varieties on their labels – Australians are increasingly enjoying not only French bubbles, but also French table wines.
The sparkling wines of Champagne are unrivalled, while Bordeaux produces complex, long-lived reds, savoury whites and the great sweet wines of Sauternes.
In Burgundy, the whites can be minerally, while the best reds tend toward ethereal. The Rhône wines are more generally a bit more macho.
Beaujolais, south of Burgundy, makes wines using the lighter Gamay grape, and then there are the easy quaffing wines from the warmer south-west of the country, which may be labelled Languedoc, Rousillon, or even just Sud-Ouest.
Burgundy starts with Chablis, two hours southeast of Paris, with Burgundy proper beginning a further hour south. The best wines are made from 100% Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. The greatest wines of the region from producers like Domaine de la Romanee-Conti won’t come cheap, but if you’re sticking to a budget there are plenty of other rewarding wines to try.
Chablis produces dry, intense Chardonnays. Try William Fevre Petit Chablis as an introduction. The Cote d’Or strip on the other hand produces the world’s best Pinot and some superbly complex Chardonnay from villages including Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet.
Pinot Noir lovers are spoilt for choice with producers in communes including Pommard, Volnay, Nuits St George and Chambolle-Musigny all outstanding.
In Champagne, usually even cooler and wetter than Burgundy, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes are used to produce sparkling wines of rare intensity, such as the classic Pol Roger Brut NV Champagne.
Bordeaux and its surrounds are home to the most coveted red wines in the world. The wines from the right bank villages are made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon, while those on the left bank (St Emilion/Pomerol) tend to be Merlot-dominated. Chateau Lamothe-Bergeron offers an affordable intro.
The area southwest of the city is also home to the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blends of Pessac-Leognan and the classy stickies of Sauternes and Barsac.
Bordeaux is a region where the wines are typically designed for cellaring – and sometimes extremely expensive – but for wines that offer value-for-money, the Canon-Fronsac, Fronsac and Cotes de Castillon appellations are worth investigating.
The great wine producing villages of Sancerre and Pouilly are just 90 minutes from Paris but the picturesque Loire Valley stretches all the way west to Nantes, home of the bone-dry Muscadet style.
The range of wines here is immense including dry, flinty Sauvignon Blanc designed for early consumption like Pouilly Fume and the Sancerre from Pascal Jolivet; dry and sweet Chenin Blanc (Saumur, Vouvray); reds made from Cabernet Franc (Borgueil and Chinon) and Rosés (Anjou).
Alsace is a north-easterly region of France perched on the border with Germany that produces aromatic white wines, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Try the Hugel Alsace Gewurztraminer for a taste sensation. Wines labelled Vendage Tardive (Late Harvest) tend to be on the sweeter side.
The Rhône Valley, in southern France near Lyon, has divided into the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhône – both of which produce wines the closest to Australia in style; reds both medium-bodied and often spicy. The earthy St Cosme Côtes du Rhône is an excellent example.
The northern region produces red wines from the Shiraz grape, sometimes blended with white wine grapes, and white wines from Viognier grapes. Famous names include Cote Rotie, Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas.
The southern region produces a variety of both red and white wines. The reds usually feature Grenache and Shiraz, or are blends of several grapes such as in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
As people around the world turn their attention to France in the coming weeks and months, it is also timely to look more closely at the wondrous wines of this great European nation and savour each and every sip.
Written by Winsor Dobbin
We love the delicate bouquet combining notes of citrus fruit, white fleshed fruit and flowers. Fresh and supple, the wine is marked by light mineral notes, typical for the appellation.
The cool climate of Chablis produces wines with more acidity, and flavours less fruity than Chardonnay grown in warmer climates. William Fèvre is the godfather of traditional Chablis and the most important proprietor in the Grand Cru vineyards.
Cool climate Chardonnay planted over limestone clay gives wines with a green tinge, flavours of minerals and stones and the ability to age for several years.
Pol Roger has long been the choice of British Royalty. It was also Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite drop. And we’re excited to announce Pol Roger has topped our list too. Our tasting panel clearly saw the brilliance in this traditional Champagne.
With a rich heritage of excellence spanning five generations, Pol Roger’s uncompromising reputation for quality is evident in every stunning mouthful. So too is that persistent mousse of small bubbles – a distinguishing feature attributed to some of Champagne’s coolest and deepest cellars.
Capturing the elegance of the Chardonnay grape, the Pinot Noir structure and Pinot Meunier fruitiness, Pol Roger is sublimely well balanced. It’s a rich, textured, dry, mid-weight. So raise your glass to Pol Roger, the quintessential champagne and our last years champion champers winner.
Château Lamothe Bergeron is a medium-sized Haut Médoc estate located in the commune of Cussac, just south of St-Julien. A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon) Beautiful red dark colour. Very charming nose with a perfect combination of red fruit & vanilla. Juicy, pure and generous in mouth, with a very long finish. Sappy and stylish.
‘Lovely currants and berries on the nose and palate of this young wine. Medium-bodied, with fine tannins and a fresh, clean finish. Score range: 88-91’ - JS, Wine Spectator.
‘Loads of berry fruit intermixed with some roasted herbs, spice box and licorice can be found in this excellentHaut-Medoc, which has medium body, lots of fragrance and very pure flavors. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.’- RP, Wine Advocate.
Clean, lifted, tropical nose combines with notes of freshly cut grass. A refined expression Sauvignon Blanc with bright passionfruit flavours and a creamy mouth-feel texture that is unmistakably French.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Hugel family gained an enviable reputation for their winegrowing skills and for the meticulous way in which they cultivated their vineyards. In 1902, Frédéric Emile Hugel left the old family property and established himself in premises in the centre of Riquewihr which still form the heart of the family business.
Nice young colour, pale green with a lazily unctuous appearance. The bouquet is expressive, aromatic, perfumed and very typically floral. On the palate we find all the charm of this grape variety. While remaining dry, it caresses and flatters with richness of flavour and elegant perfume. A fine example of a Gewurztraminer.
We've been great supporters of the captivating wines made at Château de Saint Cosme ever since we discovered their wines several years ago. Made of 100% Syrah in the southern Rhône Valley, this wine strikes the ultimate balance between both power and refinement. The quality of this wine should not come as a surprise given that the family have been making wine from the same soil since 1490.
'This 100 per cent syrah from the Gigondas area has deep colour and a spicy, earthy, graphite and violet aroma, with little or no oak influence Dark cherry, too. Full, round palate with flesh and fruit sweetness, finishing with gently drying tannin. Excellent wine of its type, and screw-capped. Best within six years. 13 per cent alcohol. 92/100.'
- Sydney Morning Herald, by Huon Hooke.
July 10, 2016
Some of the best red wine on earth comes from the many and varied French wine regions. Discover some of the top spots.
June 23, 2016
Learn about the history & ageing process of the classic fortified wine of Portugal and uncover some great drops to try.
June 13, 2016
Cabernet Sauvignon – what is it, where does it come from and what should you eat with it? Read on to find out.