The French love of wine is immense! Just as passionate as it is for cheese in fact. So while in France, how can you know which wines to drink and buy? Here are some tips for you:
1) Understanding Labels!
One confusion that many people have on buying wine in France is that most bottles do not put the name of the grape on the label, quite different to what you are used to! Instead the area the wine is from, is prominently on the label. This is called ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée,’ which translates to name of controlled origin.
The reason for this, is called terroir, this is the complete natural environment in which a wine is produced. The idea includes factors such as the soil, elevation and climate as this will all influence the vine, and how the grape and therefore wine will taste.
If you have a look at the following map you will see that France has a wide variety of regions that produce wine, they are labelled ‘vignoble,’ which just means vineyard.
2) Understanding Regions!
Now if you are most familiar with which type of grape you like, this may help! Here are the key wine regions of France and what they are most famous for:
Champagne: An easy one of course – sparkling wine
Alsace: Riesling, Pinot Gris & Gewurztraminer
Bourgogne: Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
Rhone: Syrah & Grenache blends
Corse: Red & Rosé blends
Provence: Rosé blends
Languedoc Roussillon: Grenache & Carignan blends
Sud Ouest: Malbec
Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot blends
Loire: Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet & Chenin Blanc
Wines are named after the land rather than the wine maker. In fact, one large piece of land may have many different producers working on it, each different winery owning just a few rows of vines. This unusual system came about through a couple of historical reasons. First, the monks through trial and error found the best pieces of land for wine making, and these high calibre bits of land are what are still used today. Second is that in Napoleon’s time a code was agreed upon which stipulated that a family’s vineyard could not be inherited by only one child, but rather had to be split amongst all the children.
3) Key French words for wine!
Red wine – Vin rouge
White wine – Vin blanc
Can I order one bottle please – Puis-je commander une bouteille s’il vous plaît ?
Can I have another glass – Puis-je avoir un autre verre?
Delicious! – Délicieux!