Wine notes

In the month when the French cel­e­brate their na­tional day, Master of Wine Emma Jenk­ins ap­plauds their mag­nifique wines!

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - NEWS -

Pic­ture the stereo­typ­i­cal French per­son... there’s surely a beret perched at a jaunty an­gle, a baguette tucked un­der an arm, and most def­i­nitely a glass of wine to hand. In­deed, it’s pretty hard to separate the French from wine, so per­va­sively is it en­twined through their his­tory, cul­ture and gas­tron­omy. While France may have been re­cently over­taken by Italy as the world’s big­gest wine pro­ducer (although it’s still no slouch, at seven to eight bil­lion bot­tles a year), it re­mains the spir­i­tual home of wine and makes the world’s most sought after ex­am­ples.

Pretty much all the ma­jor wine va­ri­eties – chardon­nay, sauvi­gnon blanc, pinot noir, caber­net sauvi­gnon and syrah, to name a few – orig­i­nated there. How­ever, don’t ex­pect to find bot­tles of French chardon­nay lin­ing the shelves. French wines are usu­ally named by re­gion or vine­yard, not the grape va­ri­ety. This can be in­tim­i­dat­ing, but there’s no need to feel daunted – most French people likely have no idea what va­ri­eties they’re drink­ing ei­ther, but that’s never stopped them. It’s eas­ier when you know that, by law, they can only grow cer­tain va­ri­eties in cer­tain places. Roughly speak­ing, from north to south you can ex­pect:

Cham­pagne: sparkling wine from pinot noir and chardon­nay.

Loire: whites are sauvi­gnon blanc or chenin blanc; reds and rosés mainly caber­net franc. Bur­gundy: chardon­nay or pinot noir. Bordeaux: caber­net sauvi­gnon and mer­lot red blends; whites are semil­lon/sauvi­gnon blanc, with amaz­ingly deca­dent dessert styles.

Rhône/south­ern France: grenache and syrah-based reds and rosé, viog­nier for whites.

Al­sace: help­fully, Al­sace wines ARE la­belled by va­ri­ety and here you’ll find ries­ling, pinot gris and gewürz­traminer.

These days, plenty of très mag­nifique wines for all bud­gets are im­ported into New Zealand. A good wine mer­chant will help you ex­pand your hori­zons – Mai­son Vau­ron is an ex­cel­lent place to start, not least be­cause they sell amaz­ing cheeses too! French wines are typ­i­cally less fruity and up­front than their Kiwi equiv­a­lents, the more re­strained, savoury styles be­ing in­tended to have with food. Of­ten wines that seem a lit­tle aus­tere will blos­som beau­ti­fully once en­joyed with a meal.

There is also a hand­ful of French wine­mak­ers in New Zealand, bring­ing a dash of Gal­lic flair to their adopted re­gions. Look for Clos Henri, Ge­orges Michel and No 1 Fam­ily Es­tate in Marl­bor­ough, and Au­rum in Cen­tral Otago.

New tastes and ex­pe­ri­ences are part of wine’s great plea­sure, and there are few coun­tries more re­ward­ing to ex­plore than France. Salut!

There are few coun­tries more re­ward­ing to ex­plore than France.

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