The Three Major
French Wine Regions
There are three major French wine regions that produce reds. They are Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Bordeaux.
Learning the geography of these areas is very important if you want to purchase French wine. It will help you learn how to read French wine labels.
When you ask someone about French wine, they typically believe that it is all very expensive. There are some wines that sell for thousands of dollars per bottle for the latest vintage, but that is only a small percentage of wine from this region. You can find a fine French wine within your price range, if you know what to look for.
Winemaking tradition is long here in Burgundy. Wines have been made here for more than 2,000 years. There are five major red wine producing areas in Burgundy:
- Côte d'Or
- Côte de Nuits
- Côte de Baune
- Côte Challonaise
All wines made in Côte d'Or and Côte Challonaise use Pinot Noir grapes. Beaujolais wines are made from the Gamay grape.
This area is divided into two regions, Côte de Baune and Côte de Nuits. It is important to understand the geography of Côte d'Or in order to understand the quality of the wine and for you to be a savvy buyer.
Here are a few pointers:
The wine label will tell you that the wine is from Bourgogne (Burgundy), and the area.
If it doesn't have "Cru" or "Grand Cru" on the label, it is a village wine. Anything with "Cru" is a Premier Cru vineyard. Anything with "Grand Cru" is going to be a in the highest quality and price range.
Beaujolais is my favorite of all the French wine regions. It makes my favorite French wine! It is a light, fruity wine and is great served chilled. It is meant to be enjoyed soon after you buy it.
There are three different quality levels in Beaujolais. They are Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and Cru.
But don't forget Beaujolais Nouveau. This is a wine that comes out in the middle of November. It is to be enjoyed within 6 months of purchase. It is a fantastic way to enjoy the fruits of this year's harvest.
This most important area in this part of Burgundy is the village of Murcurey. If you can find a wine from this area, it is a good purchase.
The Rhône Valley
This French wine region is sunny and hot. The sun makes the grapes produce more sugar, which causes the wines from this region to have a higher alcohol content.
The Rhône Valley is divided into two sections: northern and southern Rhône. Famous red wine regions in the northern part are Côte Rotie, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage. The wines made here are made with Syrah grapes, making nice, full-bodied wines.
The famous southern wine regions are Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. Châteauneuf-du-Pape use Grenache and Syrah in their blends.
Bordeaux is the most famous of all the French wine regions. It is much larger than Burgundy and the Rhône Valley, and accounts for most French wine production.
Bordeaux wines are made with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. Depending on where the wine was produced, the wine can have more Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot in it.
Although this region is famous for its extremely expensive wines, there many great Bordeaux wines that you can find for less than $25. Here are some tips on buying these wines, plus a list of some great cheap Bordeaux wine.
People who suffer from red wine headaches seem to get them when drinking Bordeaux wines. Click here to find out what wines do not give red wine headache sufferers symptoms.
A little bit about those Châteaux.
Bordeaux is the region in France where Château wines come from. If there is a Château on the label, French law says that that Château really exists and is owned by the winemaker.
Just because a French winery is called a Château does not mean that it is a grand building in the middle of pristine vineyards. It is actually just the name given to a single estate. These Châteaux can range from those large, gorgeous estates, to a a single family home on an acre or two.
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