a-tasting-tour-of-french-wine

by VineSleuth Contributing Writer, Steve Gross

Over the last few years, as I’ve expanded my wine education, I’ve spent quite a bit of time tasting wines from France. I’ve learned how to read the labels, and I’ve tasted more than a few wines from each region. This has raised my enjoyment level immensely. I don’t claim to be an expert, but through the rest of this year, I’d like to take you with me on a wine tasting tour of France.

Why should you care about French wine?

Well, along with Italian wine, French wine has served as a template for other regions around the world. The concept of  ‘terroir’ (loosely, the belief that wine takes on the characteristics of the location where it’s grown) originated here, and its validity is argued to this day. Centuries of winemaking in France have produced wines that are great with food and communicate the character of where they’re grown.

Flavor Profiles

Mention Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah, and many wine drinkers will have immediate sense memory of wines made from these grapes. What we know about the flavor profiles of these well-known wine grapes originated in France, and though the grape name is not mentioned specifically on the French wine label (like it is on many New World wine bottles), what we know about many varietals originally emerged in France.

Telling the Wines from Regions of France Apart

As more and more wine is produced all over the world, it has become harder to know what to expect from any individual bottle. The wines of France, while not totally predictable, offer an interested wine drinker a chance to learn wines regionally. This is true because the climate, moisture levels, elevation, and soil are more alike then different within each region.

Each region offers a frame for understanding, and as I learn more about the wine, I take comfort in knowing what to expect from other wines from that region. When a wine is really great, the skill of the winemaker and the placement of the particular vineyard seem to be the keys, and many wonderful wine moments ensue.

What we’ll explore in each region of French wine

As we proceed throughout the country, I will share wines I feel to be typical of each region.

My budget will not be off the charts on this adventure, so we’ll focus on affordable wines. It should be noted, however, that ‘affordable’ will vary from region to region. It’s tough, for example, to get a really representative and full red Burgundy for less than $30-40. I’ve found that if you always try to scrimp on price, you may not get a true picture of each region. For example, if you only tried $10 red Burgundies (if you could even find them), you might not ever drink Burgundy again. You’d certainly scratch your head when you hear of $2,300 bottles of La Tache (a famous red Burgundy) on the wine list of an upscale restaurant!

How will we explore the regions and wines of France?

Over the course of the year, we’ll move mostly in a clockwise manner, starting with Burgundy. (I’ll discuss Bordeaux out of the clockwise order, since it’s not widely drunk during the hotter months, and that’s when we would have arrived there.) I’ll drink red and white wines from each region, then share my observations on the wines, as well as let you know what characteristics you can expect.

If you are looking to taste alongside me, my advice is this:

Ask a lot of questions of your wine professionals, get a sense of the average price of wines from a region, then taste a lot of them so you can (1) get a sense of the uniqueness of the region and (2) find a wine you really like!

As always, I’ll be interested in your comments, and we’ll all benefit from suggestions of good or great wines from each region.

If you are also a wine blogger, I’d love for you to consider tasting alongside me for each region and writing your own posts about your discoveries. Then, share the link to your post on my post about the region. (Please also include a link back to my post on your post so your readers can read what others have to share, as well.) This way we’ll build a great resource for our readers to explore as they learn more about French wine… and we’ll all learn from each other, too. I’m including my posting schedule here. If anything changes in the schedule, I will update it here, as well, so please consider bookmarking this page.

We will follow this itinerary for our tasting through French wines:

Will you be joining us for our tasting journey, either by blogging, commenting or just tasting and learning?

What questions or thoughts do you already have about French wine? Please share in the comments.

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18 thoughts on “Tasting Tour of French Wine

  1. SAHMmelier 6 years ago

    Great idea! I would love to join you on the tour-at least on most of it!

  2. Sheila @ Seasoned Joy 6 years ago

    I’ve been really thinking about starting a second, food-related blog, and this is just more encouragement to do so. If I do so, I’d love to join you on the tour, especially if I can get a wine-loving friend of mine to join me. Then maybe I could post about both of our thoughts, and it would probably be a good balance of opinions – she prefers reds, and I prefer whites. 🙂

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