Hello, bonjour, and welcome to your new Bonner Wine Club video. I’m your host, Julien, and today we're starting a three week overview tour through the wonders of French wine. So as you probably know by now, I am French and a former winemaker based here in France and trained here as a winemaker here in France. So this one is fairly easy for me.
I hope you enjoy the journey that we're going to have together. So today we're going to be looking into France overall as a wine country. And then more specifically, we are going to be looking into the delicious white wines and the delicious rosé wines that are produced here. Next week we will look into the many red wines and the sweet wine treasures that are found all across the country. But for now, let's have a quick overview of the famous French wines, the whites and the rosés in particular today. Let's go.
An Introduction to French Wine
Wow. Where do we start with French wine? There would be so much to say about it. As you probably know, the country is virtually covered in vineyards with, you know, much like French cuisine, as you've probably heard, each region has its own identity, its own flavor combinations, its own climate, its own history, and, of course, its own wine.
But rather than a long, boring list of regions and wines, let's talk about the core of what has made French wine what it is today with its global reputation of quality for winemaking, if not excellence, when it comes to making wine. Briefly, for the context, Italy is the biggest wine producing nation in the world. France is only second.
But in terms of value of exports and value of wines in general, France is by a wide margin number one, the number one winemaking country, because, as you know, French wine can be rather pretty expensive. So where does the high level of quality found in French wine come from? If we were to summarize well, three things. First, of course, it always comes down to this, the history.
So the ancient Romans introduced vines here and the wine culture with them into France about 2000 plus years ago. And the locals, the you know, the local barbarians well, did not mind at the time. Then the wine culture was carried through and perfected all the way through the Middle Ages by the Catholic Church, in particular, that needed it for its rituals.
What they all found is that vines grew remarkably well in France, and that's due to the second remarkable element in French wine, what we call here, we love to call, the terroir. Now, terroir is a combination of climate, soil and local traditions. So France has a very moderate or temperate climate because of its position on the 45th parallel north, right in the middle, in between the equator and the North Pole.
So that makes it very temperate as a climate, very mild also because of both the influences of the Mediterranean Sea and of the Atlantic Ocean, because it's just stuck in between those two masses of water. It's sunny here and warm, but not too much. So perfect for making fine wines. The third key component is that through this long history and with this favorable climate, the French have selected fantastic grapes.
France-bred grapes. So century after century, they've always aimed at planting the vines that made the finer and finer wines all those years, they've just perfected it. Have you noticed how pretty much all the most famous types of wines are French, or French origin? The cabernet sauvignon, the Chardonnay, the merlot, sauvignon blanc, the syrah and many, many more, you name them.
This has not been by chance. It's the result of centuries of selection. What's not by chance is, is that we’re going to use those very grapes that you may have already heard about, that you may be familiar, more or less familiar with, to drive our little explorative tour of French wine, let's start with the white wines.
French Whites you Need to Taste
So let's start with the most obvious one, the Chardonnays. So Chardonnay, as you probably know, is a type of wine. Yes. But before that, it is a type of grape, in fact, as you've probably heard. And it's even become a name now. Yes, I've heard that little girls are now called Chardonnay. But before all of that, all of that hype around Chardonnay wine, while Chardonnay is, in fact a village, one of those very charming little villages lost in the French countryside.
Yes, you can visit the village of Chardonnay. And Chardonnay obviously is located in Burgundy. Now, in France, there's not all that many Chardonnay wines outside of its homeland of Burgundy. They’re planted everywhere, but to find good, affordable chardonnays, well, the truth is that you'd better off looking elsewhere in the new world, like in Chile, South America, in Australia or in New Zealand.
And of course, as you probably know, in California. Yet most wine connoisseurs around the world will agree that the finest of the finest chardonnays, the crème de la crème, are made in Burgundy, and that's around prestigious villages such as the Chablis, the Puligny, or the Chassagne-Montrachet, or obviously Meursault. The problem is that those villages are rather tiny, therefore those wines are pretty expensive.
Then let's talk about sauvignon blanc. I know the global star grape that originated from France. It originated — while Burgundy is a bit more inland — sauvignon blanc originated from the western part of France, from the West Coast, if you wish. And that's around Bordeaux or the Loire valley. Now great alternative sauvignon blancs that are not French can be found again from California, yeah, but also New Zealand that is now particularly famous for making sauvignon blanc wines.
Although, as is often the case with said New World wines, is that the expression of the grape has been amplified and magnified, it's been made more powerful in — from all of those countries. So California and Kiwi sauvignon blanc are extremely good, but they're rather powerful.
They're very pungent with loads of tropical fruit and grassy characters. The French sauvignon blancs, as a contrary, tend to be more introvert, more elegant, perhaps a little harder to understand, to be honest. But someone like me may also argue that they are often overall finer. For the true essence of French sauvignon blanc, look out for Sancerre in the Loire valley; small village as well. Or next door village that is called Pouilly-Fumé and of course the Graves area south of Bordeaux.
And really those two, Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, are the true superstars of French wines that you should definitely know about and explore a little bit more. If you want to learn more about French white wines, a great starting point to learn more about them. So I suggest you taste those grapes from new world countries such as California or New Zealand, and then look out for the French versions from their region of origin, the Burgundy and the Loire.
You do get a feel for the finesse, the comparative finesse of French wine that I've been talking about, although beyond those too, I must also leave you with another couple of French wine grapes less famous, but that also represent France. And that's Viognier. So that's a grape from the Rhone that delivers extremely powerful textural white wines with a round and oily body and an outstanding flavor of fresh stone fruits of fresh apricot in white peach. It's very juicy and opulent, and often delicate floral aromas of blossoms as well. It's absolutely superb. You can find some from various countries, including the US, but in France, Viognier is at its best again in a small, tiny village called Condrieu.
And finally there's riesling. So riesling is more of a German grape, to be honest, in its origin. But the eastern region of Alsace, next to the German border, is all about riesling. They love riesling over there. And one has to admit that they make stunning examples of zingy, crisp, zesty, powerful, soft white wines as well. Another type that you may experience for yourself, Alsace riesling is a classic French white wine.
But to wrap things up, let's talk about rosé in the French lifestyle for a minute as well. I promise it'll only be a minute.
La Vie En Rosé
So I'll go briefly over French rosé, mainly to say that many overlook it as a wine, as it may appear a little superficial or a little simple, just very fruity, sometimes a little sweet and not very complex. Yet what has made the popularity of rosé wine has also been its food friendliness. And that's particularly true of dry rosé, which is one of the specialties of French wine.
So a lot of rosés now, if you haven't had many in quite a while, well, many dry roses are dry and pale in color, this delicious salmon pink color, as we call it. And they are, they can be, very subtle in flavors and this is essentially what we call the Provence rosé style, because this is a style that has been invented in the south of France, on the French Riviera and by the Mediterranean Sea; the region of Provence. And there rosé is more than just the wine. It's part of the lifestyle, having refreshing crisp and dry rosé wines with delicious food and sharing it with family and friends. I think Provence rosé somewhat represents what wine means to France and to the French people. Good times in sharing them. And that's why French rosé is also so popular all around the world, because it's lifestyle even more than just wine.
And I'll leave it here for today, guys. Next week we look into French red wines and the sweet wines to continue our Tour de France of wine. And we'll see you then. And I hope you take care in the meantime. And I will see you soon in the wonderful world of wine.