When asked what country comes to mind when wine begs the conversation, invariably the answer will be France. Most consumers and critics consider France the home of the most celebrated and expensive wines on earth. Names such as Châteaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Domaine Romanée Conti, Dom Perignon, and Guigal are known the world over for their quality, style, and luxury. These wines hail from such recognizable and influential regions as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhône Valley. Nonetheless, and despite the aristocratic and prestigious pedigree of France’s top wines and producers, France and its many magnificent wines are much more than a handful of famous names and places. In fact, France – the world’s second leading producer of wine – remains a treasure trove of fine wines at affordable prices from a myriad of appellations, both renowned and obscure, if only one knows where to look.
In France, geography is king and dirt has been hailed as destiny; yet, what often sets one celebrated estate apart from its neighbor is not always the quality of the wine produced at the properties, but rather a tiny vineyard road, a humble rock wall, or a reputation established a hundred years ago or more. While a Frenchman will never discount the importance of terroir (the soil, climate, exposure, and total environment of a wine) in the production of fine wine, savvy consumers know that there is no substitute for meticulous winemaking and vineyard management, regardless of terroir. Consequently, many of France’s enological treasures need not cost a king’s ransom for one important reason: there is no shortage of quality wine makers or wine in France.
Today, more fine wines flow from France than ever before. From Alsace in the north to Cassis on the Mediterranean Sea and Minervois in the far south, or Midi as the South of France is often called, France still dazzles the wine consuming world with both the quality and variety of her wines. Today, even a famous château or domaine cannot turn out a mediocre wine and continue to thrive solely upon an age-old reputation. The present generation of young winemakers and vineyard owners in France continue to push the envelope in terms of quality. So in addition to the traditional big names, many unknown vignerons both in the well-established communes and even in what were once thought to be lesser appellations are fashioning wines of distinction, and we, the consumers, are the fortunate beneficiaries of this phenomenon. This month we invite you to a taste of France from wineries great and small, but all on the cutting edge. Salut!