A French Wine Revolution
Text: Arne Adriaenssens | Photo © Atout France - Pexels
Wine runs through the Frenchmen’s veins. As the second-biggest wine producer in the world, the country puts a cork in eight billion bottles a year, or 120 per capita. Nonetheless, a real ‘vinophile’ will never refer to ‘French wine’ as such. As the country counts at least 14 unique wine regions, they bottle an interesting variety of red, white and rosé. Guided by our nose and our palette, we roam the French countryside on the lookout for the finest wines and best vineyards.
Although it is common knowledge that good grapes require lots of sunlight, two of the best French wine regions can be found in the north of the country. In the north-east corner, just a stone’s throw away from Germany, you enter the Alsace, a white wine paradise packed between the Rhine and the Vosges. In your local wine store, wines from the Alsace stand out immediately with their elegant, slim bottles. Inside, you find some of France’s best grapes, like the Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Blanc.
If you prefer your daily glass to be bubbly, you might want to travel a bit more westwards. In the legendary Champagne region, you can witness how the finest sparkling wines in the world get their spectacular taste. It was the 17th-century monk Dom Pérignon who taught the local vintners how to get those elegant bubbles in their bottles. Not long after, the region’s wines became legendary. Nowadays, they sell Champagne in all corners of the world, but trust us: you have never drunk a glass of Champagne until you drink one while gazing at the region’s magnificent vineyards.
600 kilometres lower on the map, in the Rhône Valley, you will discover a very different way of winemaking. In the region of Avignon, the Mont Ventoux and the wine Walhalla of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the vintners are legendary for their blends of several grapes. By mixing and matching, they create new, exciting flavours. Yet, that doesn’t mean that they don’t know their way around varietal wines, as well. With the delicious Syrah grape growing in their midst, the valley is a natural factory of exquisite red wines with tones of blackberry, mint and black pepper.
The world’s most famous producer of red wines can be found on France’s west coast, in the breeze of the wild Atlantic Ocean. In the region around the city of Bordeaux ‘le pain et le vin’ have become a true religion. Superior grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc feel well at ease in this region, which is, with its 120,000 hectares, the largest wine region in all of France. Bike through the countryside and take your pick from the numerous ‘chateaux’ and their adjoining vineyards to have a little pitstop with a glass of wine and a crispy piece of bread.
France’s wine culture is almost too big to explore in just one lifetime, but you can always give it a try! We give you a head start by introducing you to the country’s best vintners. Find out more here: www.discoversoutherneurope.com
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