French wines

worth finding!

Even in the staid old world of wine, marketing long-ago eclipsed substance. 

Goofy trends sometimes dominate common sense.  Have you tried any expensive and deliberately oxidized ‘natural’ ‘orange’ wines? 

Off-beat rediscovered regions and wine styles sometimes emerge to great acclaim.  Are you familiar with Grüner Veltliner from Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic?

New World wines rise to briefly dominate the wine scene… and fade just as quickly. Meanwhile traditional wine continues to be produced in Spain and Portugal, Germany, Italy and France. 

France produces a wide range of wines across an astonishing array of styles.  Trends may come and go. French winemakers barely notice.  They are too busy maintaining and reinventing their wine treasures.

Founded in the 12th century by Cistercian monks, Chatau de Jau’s mansion was built in the hills above the Agly River - north-east of Perpignan and close to the Spanish border - in 1789. Better known for their Côtes du Roussillon blends and delicious Muscat de Rivesaltes dessert wines, Chateau de Jau also makes Jaja de Jau.

A slang term, ‘Jaja’ is an old French word for a glass of everyday, thirst-quenching wine. Le Jaja de Jau Syrah Rosé (313359) $15.79 is a remarkably dry Vins de Pays d’Oc – Country Wine from Oc – with subtle notes of raspberry, 

cherry and red currant fruit. Le Jaja de Jau Syrah (168136) $15.79 is a juicy and straightforward dry red Vins de Pays d’Oc strutting dark blackberry fruit aromas and flavours and a sprinkling of peppery spice in the finish.

British Columbia winemakers’ current – and justified! – fascination with Cabernet Franc ought to lead us all to try to explore red Chinons from the Loire Valley where Cabernet Franc is the primary red wine grape. Remy Pannier has been identified with premium Loire Valley wines since 1885, when it was founded by Francois Remy.

Over the years, Remy Pannier has developed strong working relationships with over 800 growers throughout the Loire Valley. Typical of well-made Cabernet Francs, Remy Pannier Chinon 

(670720) $21.99 has lashings of bright cherry and raspberry fruit aromas and flavours over notes of smoky red and green pepper underpinned by wet and gravelly minerality.

Native to France, Chenin Blanc has become a specialty white grown and vinified throughout South Africa.  As excellent as South African Chenin Blanc can be, the variety is still most often associated with France’s Loire Valley.

Bougrier Vouvray (60525) $22.99 is an excellent example of French Chenin Blanc at its best, off-dry with luscious aromas of mandarin oranges, peach, citrus, lanolin and pear. Under the flavours of green apple and ripe fresh-sliced pear, there are notes of lemon rind and pineapple.  Serve this luscious white with Thai or Vietnamese dishes!

In the trend department… Many wine lovers are still discovering Rosés.  Although every wine region makes their own Rosés, none are as well-known or highly respected as the Rosés from Provence, grown and vinified in the hills of south-eastern France, overlooking Marseilles, Cannes and Nice.

A blend of primarily Syrah and Grenache with Cinsault and Ugni Blanc -known in Italy as Trebbiano - Château Gassier ‘Le Pas du Moine’ Rosé (894964) $37.99 has subtly sweet floral aromas and flavours over spicy sage and thyme notes. These monks clearly had ‘bouquet garni’ footsteps…

Arguably the world’s best known and most widely travelled flying winemaker, Michel Rolland, is based in France’s Bordeaux when he’s not in Spain, California, Chile or Argentina. Rolland grew up on the family's estate Château Le Bon Pasteur in Bordeaux’s Pomerol.

Within the French Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée system, the red wines of Pomerol are based on Merlot – not Cabernet Sauvignon.  Chateau Le Bon Pasteur, AC Pomerol, 2006 (593830) $74.99 is 90 per cent Merlot.  More than 10 years after the vintage, it is remarkably rich and freshly fruited with dark plum, black cherry and vanilla presenting  before opening into mature notes of wet, gnarly tree-bark and smoky roasted peppers.

California consistently produces a wide range of whites from Chardonnay grapes.  As good as they can be, none of them have the romance and cachet of white Burgundy from France.

Extraordinarily complex, Roux Pere & Fils ‘Les Marachelles’ Premier Cru Chassagne-Montrachet 2011 (659110) $100.90 sizzles with aromas and flavours of buttery vanilla, green apple, bright lemon and toasted almond and butterscotch notes.

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