The Red, Red Wines of France

Written by
Michael Jappy
February 16, 2017
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Some of the best red wine on earth comes from the many and varied French wine regions. Discover some of the top spots.

France, the home of the world’s finest baguettes, the home of the Eiffel tower, and arguably the home of world’s most romantic language, is in many people’s eyes the Mecca of the wine world. Wine is as immersed in the culture of this amazing country as much as Vegemite is immersed in the pantries of most Australians.

Understanding the French winemaking landscape

France’s viticultural history is as old as the hills and the wines produced there have not only shaped but defined the vinous landscape the world over. Great wines are produced from the very north to the very south of this beautiful and varied land, and many of the famous grape varieties and wine styles we know and love so much today have their roots firmly bedded in French winemaking prowess.

Shiraz (known in France as Syrah), has its roots in the northern Rhône Valley, whilst its oft-overlooked cousin, Grenache, has a certain sense of ‘je ne sais quoi’ when planted in the southern half of the Rhône. Cabernet Franc, with its lovely leafy, crunchy personality, revels in the misty Loire, whilst its better known sibling, Cabernet Sauvignon, shows off its beguiling beauty best when grown on the gravelly soils of the left bank of Bordeaux. Jump over to the right bank of the Gironde and you’ll find deliciously plump and decadent Merlot like no other on the planet. And for those lucky enough to have experienced top quality Burgundy, there is clearly no better place on earth for sensual Pinot Noir than the gold slopes of the Cote d’Or.

We can’t mention all these iconic regions without also championing Champagne. The cool and often damp region of Champagne, right on the northern boundary of where viticulture is possible, is home to the most stunningly magical and elegant sparkling wines in the world, and the famous Champagne houses, along with the new exciting breed of smaller family run growers, produce wines that tantalise the senses. It may come as a surprise to know that Pinot Noir is the most widely planted variety in the region, and adds a certain sense of fruity elegance when skilfully blended with the other permitted varietals (Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay).

Red recommendations

If Syrah tickles your taste buds then look no further than the Saint Cosme Côte-Rôtie, with its briary smokiness being supported beautifully by some lovely spicy fruit. If Cabernet is your cabaret, then head straight to Bordeaux and the magnificent wines from Pauillac. Without breaking the bank, Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal is a classically-structured claret with plenty of cedar and blackcurrant goodness and a long life in the cellar ahead of it. If the sky really is the limit then head to Burgundy. The wines of Frederic Magnien, and in particular the stunning Clos Vougeot, are powerful, yet perfumed, silky, and wonderfully textured. This is Pinot Noir but on another, stratospheric, level.

Whether your red wine of choice is the spicy, savoury Syrah of Côte-Rôtie, the complex black fruit-scented cabernet of Pauillac, or the ethereal, powerful pinot of Burgundy, it’s tough to look past the iconic regions of France when reaching for a bottle of something special. So grab your best glassware, pop off the cork and Santé, Vive la France!