Sizzle up your summer
Vin Blancs de France
Are you fond of French wines but getting fatigued by the continuous rebirths of the Rosé Revolution?
Fans of French wines who think it’s just too warm for rich, spicy reds instead of Rosés – now that summer has finally arrived - often forget that France has a long history of making exceptionally tasty white wines.
Savvy, sophisticated and well funded French wine lovers know why Sancerre, Chablis, Pouilly-Fuissé, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault are world renowned.
But the common assumption that French wine must be red to be taken seriously means that the less exalted French whites can be great values.
Relatively obscure and remarkably affordable, Domaine de Grachies Côtes de Gascogne IGP (105411) $11.99 mixes the zingy characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc with the tropical fruit medley of flavours – melon, mango and papaya. Mixing Colombard, Ugni-Blanc and Gros Manseng to Sauvignon Blanc clearly produces excellent white wines.
Like Côtes de Gascogne IGP, Pays D’Oc IGP is an ‘Indication
Géographique Protégée’ that is less specific and traditional than the ‘Appellation d’Origine Protégée’ designation. Wines designated IGP may use winemaking methods and grape varieties that are not usual for that region and are often great bargains.
Apart from being unconventionally playful for a French wine, Arrogant Frog ‘Ribet White’ Sauvignon Blanc Pays D’Oc IGP (914002) $13.99 - from the Languedoc-Roussillon - is a full throttle, sun-drenched take on the grape that makes the brisk and ‘racy’ whites in the more northern Loire Valley. Passionfruit, kiwi and gooseberry aromas and flavours all come together with a twist of white pepper and honey.
Another little treasure from the Côtes de Gascogne IGP, Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne (761387) $15.99 takes a similar base blend of grapes - Colombard, Ugni-Blanc, Gros Manseng and
Sauvignon Blanc - and adds Chardonnay and Petit Manseng. This blend is richer and fruitier than Domaine de Grachies but still shows a sprinkling of the sunny, honeyed pepper on the Pays D’Oc whites.
Encompassing three regions - Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Corsica - IGP Méditerranée pulls together a grab bag of sunny southern French geographical wine designations that don’t fit into the traditional Languedoc-Roussillon, Rhône or Provence models.
Chateau de Manissy 'La Belle Etoile' Blanc IGP Méditerranée (860452) $16.99 is a blend of 80 per cent Vermentino – more commonly found in white wines from the island of Sardinia - and 20 per cent Muscat. Pear, peach and grapefruit notes slide into a chalky finish that lingers with flavours of fresh green grapes. Ahead of current winemaking trends, La Belle Etoile Blanc is made from organically grown grapes and aged in concrete tanks.
The Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine AOP - Appellation d'Origine Protégée - area covers 23 municipalities to the southeast of Nantes, in the
north-western corner of France, and is named for the wine grapes that thrive there – Muscadet – and the two rivers that cross it – the Petite Maine and the Sèvre Nantaise.
Only stainless steel was used to ferment and age Château du Coing de St Fiacre Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine (174631) $18.99 but it qualifies as Muscadet ‘sur lie’ due to six months ageing on its fine lees after the fermentation. A delicate, pale lemon colour with light floral aromas of casaba melon, pear and lightly toasted bread. The palate is juicy with pure, bright citrus flavours and a long, finely textured finish.
Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier are the primary white wine grapes of the northern Rhône valley. Any combination of these with Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanc and Bourbolenc, in any proportions, would qualify a white wine for inclusion in Saint-Joseph AOP – aka: AOC - Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.
AOP is the most recent revision of the whole scheme of regions of designated geographic origin and is intended to eventually cover all European wines and foodstuffs. It is equivalent to the French AOC, the Spanish DO and the Italian and Portugese DOC designations.
Ferraton Pere & Fils ‘La Source’ Saint-Joseph AOC (870030) $38.99 is a gorgeously ripe and perfectly balanced white wine made from 100 per cent Marsanne. From vines grown in granite soil, the grapes for this white are fermented by their own indigenous, natural yeasts. Luscious citric flavours dominate – lemon curd, candied tangerine rind - and swirl into a mouthful of sun-baked rocky honeysuckle.
These less exalted French white wines are well worth investigating!
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