France

About French Wine

France – ‘the home of wine’. Not entirely true but it certainly holds the foundations for wine growing inspiration, style and techniques across the world. Nowadays, it can be argued that much of France is held back from major innovation by the tight regulations they have put in place and the labelling, which to the general drinker can be far too ambiguous.

Key French Wine Regions
  • Bordeaux
  • Burgundy
  • Alsace
  • Loire
  • Rhone Valley
  • Southern France
  • Alsace

History

Wines from France offer a plethora of varieties and styles that can be enjoyed from as little as two months ageing through to 30+ years. Once you have got stuck into French wine there really is a treasure chest of vinous delight to discover.

Appellation Contrôlée is at the basis of modern French wine history, these strict regulations are in place to control production areas, permitted grape varieties, ripeness and ABV levels, viticultural and winemaking practices and yields! These regulations came into existence after the Phylloxera infestation that decimated vineyards in the mid-19th Century to avoid fraudulent wine production. The regulations vary dramatically from region to region but it isn’t hard to see why the best practice is to restrict certain grapes to the areas that they thrive in – this doesn’t come without issue though, as vintage variation plays a key part in France’s wine culture, sometimes the year’s crop may be outstanding, while as others it could be non-existent – that’s the luck of the draw!

Another major factor for wine production in France is their tight labelling, which is only easy to decipher if you’ve had past experience as the grapes won’t appear on the label! Pouilly-Fuissé is always Chardonnay whereas Pouilly-Fumé is always Sauvignon Blanc – easy to get the two confused but quite a significant difference in style! Some producers such as Rhône producer Jean-Luc Colombo for example, have started also stating the grape variety on the bottle, meaning that wine drinkers know what they’re getting!

In the vineyard

The vineyard differences vary extensively from region to region, however some key areas to notice are:

Burgundy and Champagne – Both prone to hail, which can in some instances, destroy a vintage and reduce yields significantly.

Chablis – Although a premium Burgundy sub region, these vineyards are situated north west of the rest of Burgundy with a unique soil of limestone overlaid with Kimmeridgian clay – this clay along with the more northerly position helps to create the fresher and more mineral style of Chardonnay grown here.

Bordeaux – Left bank (the left side of the river) is primarily gravel soil, which is better for growing Cabernet Sauvignon as it has great draining properties but also reflects the sunshine which helps the berries ripen. The right bank (the right side of the river) boasts a clay and limestone style soil, which has  greater water retaining properties, which is much better suited to this predominately Merlot based area.

Hennings Wine says

If you like wine, you’re going to like something from France – it may just take a little exploring to find the style that is for you! If you like fresh, fruity and uncomplicated head to the Languedoc (Vin de Pays d’Oc); if it’s something to lock away and leave to develop, discover the sophistication of Bordeaux; something Spicy? The Rhône valley awaits! Or perhaps an elegant celebration is in order? There is no finer fizz than Champagne, and we haven’t even touched on Burgundy, Alsace or the Loire – get exploring!

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