Friday, September 16, 2011

Demystifying French Wine

Un grand chateau en Bordeaux
In the realm of wine, for me it just doesn't get any better than vin francais.  At home this week I've enjoyed a 2009 Sancerre (Loire Valley sauvignon blanc) and delighted in a 2009 Fleurie (a cru beaujolais). And if I were stranded on a desert island with only one type of wine, it would be French Burgundy -- the reds made from luscious pinot noir, the whites the best chardonnay in the world.
Of course, sparkling wine from Champagne out-classes sparklers from anywhere else, and it's very high on my list of favorite wines.

Food & Wine is featuring wines from France, with lots of info about the seven major wine producing regions from that lovely country, on its website this week. Below are a few excerpts, or go here to read more.
See also this impassioned essay about why French wines are still unparalleled.

Seven Top French Wine Regions by Acres of Vines

  • Languedoc-Roussillon 528,000 Acres
  • Bordeaux 306,000 Acres
  • Rhône Valley 188,700 Acres
  • Loire Valley 158,000 Acres
  • Burgundy 125,000 Acres
  • Champagne 75,000 Acres
  • Alsace 34,000 Acres 
The Champagne region's wines are usually blends of different grape varieties (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier) from different years and different vineyards, combined to create consistency, vintage after vintage. The result is that despite this northern region's marginal and unpredictable climate, Champagne is incredibly reliable.

Burgundy, in north central France, is home to the world's most frustrating, unpredictable and—when everything goes right—glorious wines.
The unpredictability of Burgundy wine is largely due to variable weather; it's hard to think of a region with as much difference between vintages. But people who love Pinot Noir (red Burgundy) or Chardonnay (white) owe it to themselves to investigate the Burgundy wine region—and not to forget Beaujolais, whose Gamay-based reds are some of the world's best wine values.

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