Choosing a wine from a menu or the shelves of your local wine shop can be daunting. Despite the desire to try something new, you might find yourself consistently reaching for the same bottle you know for fear of making the wrong choice. However, a whole wine world is ready to be explored. To expand your wine horizons, why not start with a classic: French wine?
Frédéric Barnier, Head Winemaker of Maison Louis Jadot in Burgundy, France, offers three easy tips to help you discover great wines from France.
1. Unscramble French Labels
French wine standards are very strict and dictated by law. Wine labels feature a lot of information with words you may not recognize.
Here are seven basics to look for on the label:
- Vintage – year the grapes were harvested (front top label)
- Producer or Brand (front label)
- Appellation title or “sub-region” (front label)
- Region and style (front label)
- “Bottled at the estate” or location of bottling (front label)
- Alcohol content (back label)
- Winery location (front and back label)
2. Embrace a Region
Unlike American wine labels, French wines do not clearly spell out the grape variety. However, there is no magic trick there; you just need to learn some of the basics of which grapes are grown where in France.
Wines from Burgundy, for instance, will bring you delicious, elegant, aromatic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. From this eastern part of France, and more specifically from the Beaujolais region, comes another variety you may not be familiar with known as Gamay. A wine to try is the Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, which is 100% Gamay, and actually the number one French wine in the U.S. It is crisp, fruit-forward, and juicy, with expressive aromas and flavors of ripe red berries such as raspberry and cherry, with notes of black pepper.
If you’re looking for a rosé wine, there is the ever-popular region of Provence which made the pale pink blends of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault inseparable from the summer. One of the most famous Provence rosé regions is Coteaux d-Aix-en-Provence, where the Mistral winds cool the vineyards. A classic Provencal rosé is AIX Rosé (pronounced like the letter “X”), with a lovely salmon pink color and fragrant with strawberry and watermelon.
On the other end of the pink spectrum, the rosé wines of Tavel are famous for their gorgeous hue, bigger body, and seriousness that many do not associate with rosé. They are made of a Grenache-based blend of grapes typical of the southern Rhône Valley. Château d’Aqueria crafts a quintessential Tavel that is widely appreciated as the finest wine of its appellation. Its vibrant coral color is stunning.
3. Share and Celebrate
Wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed, so throw a French wine tasting party with friends. Instruct guests to bring one bottle of French wine. As host, prepare a nice plate of charcuterie and cheese. Fill the evening with interesting French wine region facts to initiate hearty discussions. As a group, review the tasting notes for each featured wine, and find delight in the discovery of new likes and dislikes.
Here are some tips on preparing the food:
- How to Pair a Rosé and White Wine Charcuterie Board for Spring or Summer
- Easy Tips for Delicious Wine and Cheese Pairings
- Simple Wine and Food Pairing Tips to Make Your Meal Unforgettable
- Wine and Food Pairing Quiz
- If those articles had you hungering for more, check out Big Macs & Burgundy by Vanessa Price
Another way to introduce French wines into your lifestyle is by celebrating with them during different holidays. For a classic French white wine that pairs well with a variety of dishes, a great choice is the Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé, made of 100% Chardonnay. The Pouilly-Fuissé, which comes from the designated area of Mâconnais, another sub-region of Burgundy, will beautifully complement fish and shellfish as well as lighter meats such as ham or poultry. Another excellent choice is the Pouilly-Fuissé from Domaine Ferret, an estate that has long been a top producer of the category.
By tasting and broadening your knowledge of French wine, you will expand your buying horizons and palate. You might even discover new food pairing possibilities. Don’t be afraid to go beyond your preferred wine varietals—the experience will be well worth it.