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  Main picture: A vineyard in Burgundy, France. Above: Looking down on a vineyard in Beaujolais
of years old, you can be pretty sure that any specific grape variety you fancy is used somewhere in France, producing wines that are sweet, dry, sparkling, light and fragrant or heavy and rich. Name your favourite style and grape and chances are it’ll be produced by a Gallic winemaker somewhere.
So if my future is going to be ‘vin de France’, what will I choose to drink and what suggestions can I give so that you can try what France can offer? An often heard criticism of their wine is that it’s too expensive and yes, it can be, so I’ll try to suggest some good-value wines that can be obtained locally.
Let’s start with some fizz, and I guarantee that you all think I’m going to go to Champagne, the world’s biggest producer of sparkling wine, but I’m not. Yes, it’s lovely, but it’s also too expensive
for what it is. Much better value is to go for Crémant, slightly less fizzy (creamy bubbles rather than bigger, individual ones), produced throughout France, and this is the important bit, using the ‘Méthode Traditionnelle’ of which Champagne is made, where the important second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Try either of these Waitrose treats, Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs NV (£13.99), Chardonnay from Burgundy, or Cave de Turckheim Crémant d'Alsace (£12.99) made with Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris from the relatively unappreciated northern region of Alsace. Crémant du Loire is also recommended, try the Chenin Blanc with a splash of Chardonnay Bouvet Saphir Saumur 2018 from Majestic (£14.99). All three are great wines, and when you can get two bottles for the price of a standard brand- name Champagne . . . fill your boots!
I’ve always recommended Adnams’ White Burgundy (£11.99), a lovely unoaked Chardonnay from the good- value Macon region of Burgundy, but if you’re after a richer style of Burgundy then head south where the warmer climate produces a more honeyed taste to this king of grapes; Domaine Begude Terroir 11300 Organic Chardonnay from Waitrose (£9.99) hails from Limoux near to the Pyrenees, or really treat yourself with Majestic’s Domaine de la Metairie D’Alon Chardonnay Le Village 2016 (£15.99), a bit more expensive but a wonderful Chardonnay from Languedoc- Roussillon.
New Zealand isn’t the only place to get good Sauvignon Blanc. Adnams’ Touraine Domaine Beauséjour (£9.99) from the Loire region is a classic zingy Sauvignon Blanc and better value than nearby Sancerre. Many Bordeaux white wines are also generally Sauvignon Blanc, while Sirius Bordeaux Blanc (£8.50) from Nethergate Wines adds some Semillon to its blend. Alsace is very close to the German border and its signature grape, Riesling, produces wines which in our opinion are superior to German ones. Try Nethergate Wines’ Riesling Reserve, Cave de Turckheim for an intense peach and lime taste, while we also recommend the Gewürztraminer grape from Alsace, as it produces some fabulous dry Turkish Delight and lychee aroma wines from this hard to pronounce but worth trying grape. Try Paul Blanck Gewurztraminer (£14.99) from Waitrose to see what we mean.
Bordeaux produces some of the
greatest red wines in the world, but many of these are outside of our price bracket. That doesn’t mean that we don’t recommend them though, and there are less famous areas of Bordeaux producing wines that we love. Adnams’ Chateau Argadens Bordeaux Superior (£12.00) is a great Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend that is excellent value, showing what a good winemaker can do with good grapes, as is Château Caronne Ste-Gemme 2016 Haut-Médoc (£14.99) Majestic, which is made just a few hundred metres away from St Julian where wines that will cost you four-times more a bottle are produced. St Emilion wines are justifiable famous, but a bit of canny searching can also uncover a (relative) bargain; try Château Moulin la Bergère, St-Georges Saint-Émilion (£13.99) from Waitrose and you’ll see what we mean.
Perhaps our best taste for your money red wines from France come from the Languedoc-Roussillon region where the warm sun and Mediterranean Sea breezes produce some cracking wines. Carignan Vieilles Vignes Mont Rocher, Pays d’Herault (£8.44) Nethergate Wines is a very dark, black cherry and cassis flavoured wine that punches well above its weight, as does Le Bio Balthazar Minervois (£8.99) Adnams, both produced using old variety vines typical of the area. Syrah, the French name for Shiraz, loves the heat, and you can taste sunshine and spice in Majestic’s Domaine Les Yeuses 'Les Epices' Syrah (£9.99), and if you think that Malbec only comes from Argentina then be sure to try La Baume Grande Olivette Malbec, a bargain at only £6.99 from Majestic.
Perhaps drinking wines from France all the time wouldn’t be a bad thing at all if they were all as good as this selection. But it would be like eating only vanilla ice cream in an Italian Gelateria; very good, but you’re missing out on the big experience.
Try our suggestions and we’re sure you’ll find some new wines from France to enjoy, and we’ll be suggesting a wider range of destinations for you to try in future issues. Good drinking!
Suffolk Wine Academy wine tastings and courses will return soon, and we will shortly be able to run our popular tastings in your own home for family and friends. Follow Suf- folk Wine Academy on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or check out our website www.suffolkwineacademy.co.uk to find out more about us and our events
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