French Wine - Should you Believe the Hype?

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Is there any more fundamental association in the world of food and drink than France and wine? Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux... A map of France could be mistaken for the wine list of any top notch restaurant in the world. 

In recent decades, however, our eyes and taste buds have been opened to the pleasures of wine from beyond the Loire Valley. Places like Portugal, Italy, and Spain and even further afield in Chile and Australia. And yet those household French names retain their gravitas, synonymous with the drink itself. 

But should we still believe the hype? Is this the ultimate exercise in branding from a country whose tourism thrives on its reputation for food and wine? Our cousins over the channel seem to treat their affinity to that little fruit with a borderline religious sincerity, not to say pomposity, but haven’t you ever wondered what it’s all about?

Why is French Wine Famous?

Most of the finest grape varieties grown around the world today take their name from regions in France. But why is it so? Well, the French took to wine like ducks to water when they first began cultivating it around 425 BC and they painstakingly improved their wine-making technique across the centuries. 

Much of this was undertaken by monks in the middle ages, who experimented with the positioning of grapevines in the landscape, allowing them more or less rain, stronger or weaker sunshine, to create the most diverse and pleasing tastes. This trial-by-error approach resulted in the variety and quality of wines available today. 

The Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) system implemented in 1935, further underpinned the French drive for consistently high quality wine. It specified what grapes could be planted where, and by whom, if they wanted to be marketed as a certain type of wine. This system became a gold-standard and was replicated across the world.

What is the Most Popular French Wine?

Originating in South West France, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape in the world today—arguably a good case for it being the most popular thing to come out of France in, well, forever. Cab Sav’s home region of Bordeaux produces the most wine in the country, including big names like Merlot, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. Bordeaux wines fetch some of the highest prices for French wine around the world, and regularly scoop up prizes at fine wine competitions. 

What are the French Wine Regions?

We’ve already mentioned Bordeaux but there are eight more French wine regions producing delicious and distinct wines. 

  • Burgundy is divided between many small vintners, and has a reputation for wine excellence that commands eye-wateringly high prices. The majority of wines from the region are of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. 
  • Champagne is the furthest north of the French wine regions. Its milder climate renders a less ripe fruit, suited to the labour intensive production of sparkling wine. And we’re very glad it does.
  • Located in the middle of the country, the Loire Valley is a predominantly white wine producer and home to many unique and brilliant varieties of that grape, including Muscadet and Sancerre.
  • In the South, the Languedoc-Roussillon region is the largest wine-producing area in the country, and most of it isn’t exported. The French have to keep something for themselves after all.
  • To the west of The French Alps, the Rhône Valley stretches 150 miles North to South and is famed for its delicious red wines made from a huge variety of grapes.
  • East of Champagne, in Alsace, they stick to what they’re good at, so 90% of the wine produced here is white. The unique character of the wine reflects the influence of their German neighbors to the east and the dry, sunny climate contrives many rich, fruity wines. 
  • Jura is a small, modest wine making region in the east of France bordering Switzerland and boasts a number of more unusual grape varieties than its neighboring Burgundy. 
  • Hot and dry Provence is situated on the southern coast of France and is the only region specialising in rosé wine, which accounts for 75% of its production.

So, we think it’s safe to say you can believe the hype. But with the sheer quantity and quality of wines on offer from this most prolific of wine countries, you may not feel any closer to sitting back with a new favourite wine. That’s where we come in.  

The Grape People French Connection

Every wine in the Grape People shop is carefully selected for taste, quality, and price. We also deliver straight to your door in boxes of 3, 6 or 12, so you can spend less time lingering in the wine aisle and more time enjoying good wine. To get you started, we’ve put together a selection of our favourite French wines, available from our online store.

  • Le Bon Cote, red, 2018–  is a sustainably produced, perfectly balanced red from the once overlooked Languedoc region now producing a wave of high quality wines. 
  • It’s sister, Le Bon Cote, 2019 is a crisp and fruity white made from a blend of two lesser known grapes.
  • The amber-hued Remy Leroy Champagne is an exquisite bubbly, packing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay into a celebratory drink, perfect for summer celebrations.
  • A Sauvignon Blanc for the ages, Les Grenettes is a balanced, beautifully fresh white wine that pairs like a dream. 

To enjoy the tastes of centuries of French innovation from the comfort of your own home, visit our online shop and sign up to our newsletter, where we bring you our curated list of exclusive wines from around the world.

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