Choosing a wine from a menu or the shelves of your local wine shop can be daunting. Despite wanting to try something new, you might find yourself consistently reaching for the same bottle you know for fear of making the wrong choice. However, a whole wine world is ready to be explored. Why not start with a classic: French wine?
Frédéric Barnier, Head Winemaker of Maison Louis Jadot in Burgundy, France, offers easy tips to help you discover great wines from France.
Unscramble French Labels
French wine standards are very strict and dictated by law. Wine labels feature a lot of information with words you may not recognize. Here are seven basics to look for on the label:
1. Vintage- year the grapes were harvested (front top label)
2. Producer or Brand (front label)
3. Appellation title or “sub-region” (front label)
4. Region and style (front label)
5. “Bottled at the estate” or location of bottling (front label)
6. Alcohol content (back label)
7. Winery location (front and back label)
Embrace a Region
Unlike American wine labels, French wines do not clearly spell out the varietal. However, there is no magic trick there; you just need to learn some of the basics of which varietals are grown where in France.
Wines from Burgundy for instance will bring you delicious, elegant, aromatic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. From this eastern part of France, and more specifically from the Beaujolais region, comes another varietal you may not be familiar with known as Gamay. A wine to try is the Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, which is 100 percent Gamay, and actually the number one French wine in the U.S. It is crisp, fruit-forward and juicy, with expressive aromas and flavors of ripe red berries, such as raspberry and cherry, with notes of black pepper.
Share and Celebrate
Wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed, so throw a French Wine tasting party with friends. Instruct guests to bring one bottle of French wine. As host, prepare a nice plate of charcuterie and cheese. Fill the evening with interesting French wine region facts to initiate hearty discussions. As a group, review the tasting notes for each featured wine, and find delight in the discovery of new likes and dislikes.
Another way to introduce French wines into your lifestyle is by celebrating with them during special meals and occasions. For a classic, French white wine that pairs well with a variety of dishes, a great choice is the Louis Jadot’s Pouilly-Fuissé, made of 100 percent Chardonnay. The Pouilly Fuissé, which comes from the designated area of Mâconnais, another sub-region of Burgundy, will beautifully complement lighter fare or a holiday menu of ham or lamb.
For more information on French wines, regions and food pairings go to www.lovejadot.com.
By tasting and broadening your knowledge of French wine, you will expand your buying horizons and palate. You might even discover new food pairing possibilities. Don’t be afraid to go beyond your preferred wine varietals — the experience will be well worth it.