What wine country epitomizes “amour”? The answer, of course, is France. Although the French did not invent wine or love for that matter, they do feel they perfected both! I won’t delve into whether they perfected love, but they have come close to that goal in wine. Blessed with remarkable terroir (combination of climate, soil, and terrain) for viticulture that occupies a significant portion of the country, France has made notable wines since the time of the Greek and Roman Empires right through to the present day.
Some of the regions of France (and the wines from those regions) have become household names like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne. These wines are icons. However, there are many other areas that are not quite as famous that produce phenomenal wines that are great values. Some of these areas are: Southern Rhone, Roussillon, Cahors, Loire, Beaujolais, and Alsace.
So, let’s take a wine journey through France this month tasting from some of the well known, and not so well known, wine regions that produce great wine. As customary, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by the British wine critic, Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.
Donatien Bahuaud Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray 2017 ★★★★ $20.95 (Vintages) Vouvray is from the Loire Valley and made with Chenin Blanc grapes. It’s a lovely pale lemon colour, medium bodied, off dry, and scented with stone fruits and minerals. This white makes a beautiful pairing with strong cheeses, especially St. Aubin from the Loire.
Willm Riesling Reserve 2017 ★★★★+ $18.95 (Vintages) The Alsace is a French wine region that has been swapped between France and Germany over the centuries; hence, here we have a rather uncommon French white wine – a Riesling. This white is a very dry style of Riesling with intense lime, minerals, and refreshing acidity. It’s the perfect accompaniment for stir fried Chinese pork with cashews.
Famille Cattin Pinot Gris 2017 ★★★★ $16.60 (LCBO) Alsatian Pinot Gris is a different wine compared to its light bodied Italian Pinot Grigio sibling, even though both come from the same grape. Alsace’s sunny weather produces a rich, off dry white, brimming with stone fruit, pear, honey, apple, and citrus. It makes an excellent pairing with Thai curry.
Saint Roch Vieilles Vignes Cotes du Roussillon 2017 ★★★½+ $16.95 (Vintages) Wines from the south of France are typically blends of local heat tolerant grapes since the summer can be intensely hot. This Roussillon white is indeed typical – made from Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. Expect mineral, floral, and lemon driven aromas leading to similar flavours with a sprinkle of stone fruit in this medium bodied wine. For a different pairing, try it with falafel or a slightly spicy dish.
Vaucher Pere et Fils Fleurie 2015 ★★★★ $16.95 (Vintages) Fleurie is one of the 10 specially designated areas (Cru) in the Beaujolais region that produce superior wine. This red is a violet infused, red berry, cranberry, and dark cherry treat. Its low tannins and good acidity allow some interesting wine pairings. If you like a red wine with fish, this is your wine. Good paired with pasta with tuna tomato sauce.
Jean-Pierre Moueix Bordeaux 2015 ★★★½ $17.95 (Vintages) A blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%), this is a good, light purple, medium bodied red that’s ready to drink. Pair its herbaceous tobacco leaf, plum, and cedar flavours with game, such as bison or venison.
Chateau des Roques Cuvee due Chateau Vacqueyras 2013 ★★★½+ $24.95 (Vintages) Pizza with French red wine? When it’s this one, it’s a good thing. Order a pizza with some olives and chili flakes and this will play nicely with it! This mid-purple Rhône is medium to full bodied and the tannins have settled in nicely with raspberry, blackberry, spiced plum, and a dusting of orange peel fruit. Drink this and you can dream of the warm southern French sun and forget the cold!
Domaine de Rochebin Clos Saint-Germain Bourgogne 2015 ★★★ $23.95 (Vintages) A good 2015 red that exhibits a lighter, fruitier side of one of Burgundy’s superstar grapes, Pinot Noir. Don’t leave this one sitting around, it shows light tannins and is ready to drink presenting spiced cranberry and raspberry fruit. It’s light enough to serve with apps and still a nice match for fruit baked ham.
Château Saint-Roch Chimères 2016 ★★★★ $17.00 (Vintages) A red from low yielding Grenache and Syrah vines the southern Roussillon region near the Spanish border. The grapes in this region ripen earlier than anywhere else in France due to its hot, dry climate. Grenache thrives under these conditions and gives us this wonderful spicy plum offering. Amazing with chicken roasted with garlic, tomatoes, and olives.
Chateau LaBarrade 2016 ★★★½+ $13.95 (LCBO) Cahors is the French home of Malbec. This red is inky dark; it’s not called the black wine of Cahors for no reason! Aromas and flavours suggest blackberry, raspberry, sweet plum, cedar, and licorice with moderate tannins. Good with chorizo stuffed chicken, but great with filet mignon or aged Cheddar.