Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel
Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel

The Grapevine

Over the years we have been asked by many people how we choose a good wine. Well, firstly it is a matter of personal taste and from that comes the pleasure of trying the different wines. Hopefully our indroduction to wine will be of assistance.

France is the world’s most famous wine producing country (although there are a few Italians and Spaniards that might disagree with our viewpoint). From champagne in the north to the Roussillon in the far south , We are blessed with some superb vineyards making a diverse range of wines, reflecting the range of grape varieties, climate and vineyard soils that can be found in each locality. This diversity is one of our strengths, but it can be rather daunting for non-experts so this is where our guide to the world of French wines may come in useful. We will try to point out the obvious and the oddities, but in doing so try to show you that choosing wine does not have to be a daunting process. After all wine is there to make us happy, to bring people together, and to enhance a meal. So no matter whether you buy from the wine merchants and hypermarkets around the ports or travel to the vineyards further south, you will always find something that appeals to you and remember always have your corkscrew to hand, you never know when you will need it.

Taste like an Expert

Don’t fill your glass too full – about a third is fine. Try to pick a glass with a generous bowl, and a tulip shape.

Take a look at the colour. This can tell you quite a bit about the wine even before you taste it.

Give it a swirl to release the aromas. Stick your nose in the glass and take a sniff. Do you like it? What different aromas can you detect?

Take a sip, leaving it in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. Just taking a little time to consider the flavour of the wine as this has the potential to increase your enjoyment.

If you are feeling keen you might want to take a few notes. At first you might struggle to say much, but after a while you will build your own vocabulary of tasting terms

Grape Varieties

The character of any wine is influenced by the soil, the climate and the art of the viniculturist, but nothing will dictate its flavour more than the variety or varieties of the grape from which it is made. So our first table shows you the various varieties of grape used in viniculture, as it is necessary to understand that each variety can produce different flavours.

Red Grapes White Grapes
Cabernet Franc- Red wines from the Loire (Anjou, Bourgueil, and Saumur) and also in Bordeaux wines

Cabernet Sauvignon - The great red Bordeaux grape, often blended with other varieties.

Carigan The traditional grape variety of southern French regions such as Minervois, Corbiéres and in particular - Fitou

Cinsault - One of the oldest south of France varieties

Gamay - Red Beaujolais

Grenache - Found in many Rhône Valley wines, usually blended

Malbec - Once overlooked in its traditional heartland of Cahors, this spicy variety is now attracting attention elsewhere in France.

Merlot - Bordeaux, St.Emilion, Pomerol and Bordeaux blends, Merlot is also blended with Syrah in some wines from the South

Mourverde - Very well known in the Rhône Valley. It is one of the older grape-varieties present in France.

Pinot Noir - Red Burgundy and blended into Champagne

Syrah - Rhône and Languedoc wines, usually blended
Chardonnay - Classic grape for white Burgundy and wines from the South of France

Chenin Blanc - Sweeter wines from the Loire and excellent dry wines

Clairette - A southern grape-variety. It is one of the oldest. It is used with others in white and rosé wines of Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence and Rhône Valley.

Gewürztraminer - An Alsace grape that produces both dry and sweet wines and is easily recognisable by its unusually oily texture

Gros Manseng - Best known for its use in the wines of Jurançon

Marsanne - White Hermitage and Croze Hermitage from the Rhône

Muscat - This variety gives a truly grapey-tasting wine

Pinot Blanc - An Alsace variety that is like a less fruity Chardonnay

Pinot Gris - Produces a peary, gently spicey wines of Alsace

Sauvignon Blanc - Great white Loire wines (Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé) and some white Bordeaux where it is often blended with Sémillon

Semillon - A rich, peachy, honeyed grape that shines in sweet white Bordeaux

Ugni Blanc - Under the name of "Saint-Emilion" it is the predominant in Cognac. Ugni Blanc grows also in Languedoc, Provence and Corsica where vinegrowers use it for its freshness.

Viognier - An extraordinary floral, apricoty grape used in Condrieu and a growing number of country wines from southern France

Once you have chosen the grape variety you prefer, then it is a great advantage to be able to understand the words and abbreviations on the label. So the next list will make you aware of these terms:

AC - Appellation Contrôlée
AOC - Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
Barrique - 225 litre oak cask
Blanc de blanc - White wine from White grapes
Blanc de Noirs - White Wine from Red Grapes
Brut - Dry (Usually for sparkling wines)Cave - Cellar
Cave - Cellar
Cave cooperative - Cooperative Cellar
Cépage - Grape Variety
Chai - Warehouse for storing wine, usually in barrels, above ground Châteaux estate.:
It may or may not have a manor house
Château Cuvé - Property usually making/bottling its own
Clos - Walled vineyard (walls may have been lost in time)
Coteaux - Hillsides
Côte - Slope of a hill
Crémant - Sparkling Cuve - Wine Vat or Tank
Cru Classé - Classification used for Médoc properties
Cuve - Wine Vat or Tank
Cuvée - Blend
Cuve Close - A bulk method for producing sparkling wines
Demi-Sec - Semi-dry
Domaine - Property usually making/bottling its own wine
Doux - Sweet
Élevage - Maturation & pre bottling treatment
Foudre - Large wooden vat
Fût - Small oak cask
Grand Cru - Château's main wine
Grand Cru Classé - Great growth, highest vineyard classification
Grande marque - Champagne House
Grand Vin - Great Wine (Marketing term)
Marque - Brand
Méthode champenoise - Champagne method of making sparkling wine
Mis en bouteille - Bottled
Moelluex - Fairly sweet
Monopole - Exclusive brand name
Négociant - Merchant
Pétillant/Pétillance - A light Sparkle
Premier Cru - First growth, Highest Médoc category specified in the classification of 1855
Récolte - Harvest or vintage
Réserve - First growth, 2nd highest vineyard classification
Sec - Dry
Sous marque - Secondary brand
Tete de Cuvée - Wine from 1st pressing
Vendange - Harvest or vintage
Vigneron - Wine grower
Vin de Pays - Country Wine
Vin de Table - Table wine

 

Now we move on to categories and in France there are four categories, as shown below.

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC)

 

The appellation is regarded as a guarantee on the origin and the quality of the wine.
The wines of each AOC are assumed to have a particular character and homogeneous and only a playground that can produce wines individuals can access to the appellation AOC.
The AOC wines are subject to more stringent requirements that the wines of countries or VDQS, although the latter may be significantly different from a designation to the other.
The criteria may relate to:

 

  • The varietals allowed and the percentages of each grape variety intended to be assembled
  • the maximum yields
  • the age of vine plants and the density of planting
  • harvesting techniques and winemaking,

Appellation d'Origine Vin De Qualité Supérieure (AOVDQS)

- In the hierarchy of wines, these come between Vins de Pays and AOC wine. They are also strictly controlled by the "Institut National des Appellations d'Origine" (INAO). This is a dying category as many wines are progressing to the higher level (e.g. Minervois and Corbières) but some wines do stay at this level (e.g. Bugey), something that adds to the existing confusion. Possibly the best explanation of this ludicrous situation is that VDQS wines are not of sufficent interest to either the appellation controlée or the vins de pays authorities.

 

Vin de Pays

This is the next layer in the pyramid of categories, made up of 150 country wine appellations that were introduced in 1973 to promote regional wines. These wines contain a 100% of a single grape-variety, approved of by a "Conseil Interprofessionnel" (joint committee of professionals) grown in a strictly limited zone. All these wines are tested to be accepted as "Vin de Pays".

This fast-evolving was not designed to cater for anything better than decent daily-drinking fare, and the fact that the best vins de pays now realize better prices than some appellation controlée wines is something that many aficionados of the appellation controlée system find very hard to swallow.

 

Many producers have applied skill and care in the production of their vins de pays to match the better producers of appellation controlée wines. These producers now lobby to prevent any changes to other parts of the appellation system

 

Put a Cork in It

"Corked" wine does not mean there are tiny particles cork floating around in the glass: you can carefully fish those fragments out. It occurs when fungal contaminants are growing in the cork bark end up in the cork, and then in the wine, giving it a musty smell similar to old cellars or damp, soggy, wet or rotten cardboard. About 1 in 20 cork-sealed wines are affected, and this is one of the reasons that plastic corks and screw-caps have become popular alternatives.
Decant or Not

 Decanting a wine - pouring the bottle into a decanter or jug before serving - is recommended for young red wines that need to be "open up" a bit. This is when the flavours a re a bit closed in and the wine is not showing all the aromas it should. Decanting is also used for older fine wines that have some sediment at the bottom of the bottle , and in this case the wine should be poured into the decanter in one smooth movement so as not to disturb the sediment and end up with a cloudy wine. You can decant any wine, even whites, and it adds a bit to the wine-drinking experience. 

Food and wine in harmony is not mysterious as wine seems to work just fine with many different foods, and in wine regions wine is not something that is casually sipped in front of the television. Wine always has a place at the table, no matter the occasion. Here, regional dishes and wine have evolved hand in hand.

Fish is usually accompanied by white wine because reds have tannins, which are sharp, bitter and can clash badly. Crisp un-oaked whites are ideal for grilled white fish: richer whites come into play with sauced dishes.

Meat harmonizes well with steak or roast beef and roast chicken goes well with a rich Chardonnay.

Alsace

This is a beautiful part of France is squeezed between the heavily forested Vosges Mountains and the German border - the source of some very interesting white wines. It is one of the few regions to put the name of the grape variety on the label. Alsace wines can be a little confusing because the sweetness level can vary from bone dry to sweet, but fortunately many producers now use a sweetness scale on the label. The white wines of this region are very distinctive, with a rich aroma and full of ripe flavour. Some of the finest grapes are Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, with Muscat, Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc playing a lesser role. One of our favourites is Pinot d’Alsace, a bizarre white wine with a rich golden hue. A blend of various “Pinot” grapes (including Auxxerois) one of the most uniquely flavoured white wines in the world. Another of our favourites are dessert wines; “Vendages Tardives” and “Sélection de Grains Nobles” as the grapes are harvested late to produce a honeyed flavour from the botrytis (aka Noble Rot) in the grape.

Bordeaux

This is the world’s premier fine wine region with many of the most celebrated fine wines having their origin in the famous vineyards of this large region. But don’t think that all the wines are good: because you would be wrong. There are thousands of vineyards, some large, some small, although some are excellent others should think about some other means of making a living. One of the great joys of this region is the enormous number of opportunities for wine tasting. We could spend years in this region and never taste them all. Our idea of heaven! Drive down for a week in the summer – wander around the villages, visit a château or two, taste, buy and head home with a car full of excellent wine.

 

The top red wines from this region have become household names: Châteaux such as Latour, Lafite, Haut-Brion, Mouton Rothschild and Petrus are the true celebrities of the wine world, and are bought, drunk, traded and talked about across the world. But there's more to Bordeaux than just the top Châteaux. It's a large region that makes a lot of wine, much of it inexpensive and quaffable - red, white and pink; dry and even sweet. But Bordeaux's main talent, and the reason most of us love it, is that it's a source of a lot of hugely drinkable, food-friendly, digestible red wines at reasonable prices - and not just a region for pricey investment grade bottles that are just too expensive for normal people to drink.

Right and Left Banks

The region is split in two by the river Gironde and its estuary. On the seaward peninsula there is the Medoc with its famous châteaux Latour, Lafite, Margaux, and Mouton Rothschild. On the landward side of the estuary there is Saint-Emillion, Pomerol and its satellites where the wine is dominated by the Merlot grape.

CHARACTERISTICS

The secret to Bordeaux is that it has a wonderful combination of soil and climate for making good wines. The climate is warm but is tempered by the closeness of the Atlantic Ocean, which brings in regular rainfall, even in the summer, and stops it getting too hot. It's at the northern limits of where Cabernet Sauvignon, the leading red variety of the region, can ripen. This is a good thing, because grapes seem to give the most interesting wines when they struggle a bit to achieve ripeness. In the good soils (the less fertile ones) and warmer sites Cabernet tends to be planted, and the cooler sites and richer soils are given to Merlot, and to a lesser extent Cabernet Franc. The other Bordeaux red grapes are Malbec and Petit Verdot, which are used in small proportions as seasoning in the blend. It's blending these grapes together that's the secret of making top wines, with Merlot adding a bit of the fleshiness and mid-palate that the rich, structured Cabernet Sauvignon often lacks.

Bordeaux AC

This wine is produced in the area known as Entre-Deux-Mers, an area east of Bordeaux on the right of the Gironde River and sandwiched between it and the Dordogne. Château Marjosse is the most recognisable of the vineyards producing good quality wine at affordable prices. The red is based on the Merlot grape with a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet France.

Bordeaux-Graves

Graves is a large sub-region to the south-east of Bordeaux, the northern edge of which is within the southern suburbs of the city. At its southern edge it includes two communes, Sauternes and Barsac, which produce some sweet whites. Our favourite is neither Sauternes or Barsac but the little known Cérons AOC, lighter and livelier than Sauternes or Barsac, creamy and mellow with the flavours of apricot, quince, lime, toasted almonds, mint, peach, cloves, lilac, acacia and angelica. It is this area that produces some of the best whites in the Bordeaux region. In the north of the region close to Léognan and Cadaujac is the Pessac-Léognan appellation. The regulations impose very strict production conditions, particularly:

• For red wines, a blend of grape varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominant varietal, as well as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenère.

• The following white-wine grape varieties are permitted: Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, Sémillon, and Muscadelle.

• The vines must be planted at a minimum density of 6,500 vines/hectare, to ensure the production of high-quality grapes.

• Minimum sugar content: 162 g/L must for red wines and 144 g/L for white wines...

Unique dry white wines!

Dry white wines from this appellation are generally a fairly pale, straw-yellow colour. The young wines are subtle, light, aromatic, and fresh. Sauvignon Blanc contributes freshness and fruit. When the blend includes Sémillon, the wines have unique, candied-fruit aromas. These white wines are complex, full-bodied, and soft, with extraordinary aromatic length. Remarkably for white wine, Pessac-Léognan has great ageing potential. (sometimes over 20 years).

Great red wines!!

Red wines from the Pessac-Léognan appellation are a lovely, bright crimson colour. With a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, young Pessac-Léognan are full-bodied, but still perfectly well-balanced and elegant. They have beautifully ripe, red-berry fruit aromas, with floral hints, like violets, as well as lovely leather nuances on the nose. As they age (they have remarkable ageing potential, from 7 to over 20 years), they develop nuances of stewed, dried, and jammy fruit, as well as gamy aromas.

Bordeaux-Médoc & the Communes

The Médoc peninsula on the left bank of the Gironde estuary is one of the most famous wine regions of the world. In reality the Médoc is only the northern third of the peninsula. This marshy land was drained by the Dutch in the 17th-century is now home to some very famous communes such as Pauillac, Saint Estèphe, Margaux, Saint Julian. Our favourite being Château Pédesclaux, a medium/full bodied wine with fresh crunchy cassis flavours and a hint of spicy black cherry and herbs.

Bordeaux Pomerol

This area was not always so highly regarded: fame came late to this once modest farming community. as with Saint Émilion, Merlot is the grape, usually blended with a touch of Cabernet Franc with the best wines combinging elegance with structure for ageing. The key, as with the rest of Bordeaux lies under the surface, with soils of clay and chalk giving the vines just enough water but not too much. Satellite appelation Lalande de Pomerol offer similar wines with similar character, which drink earlier and are more affordable.

Bordeaux St-Émilion

The vineyards of St-Émilion are based around the prettiest town in the region, on the right bak of the gironde. It's one of Bordeaux's largest sub-regions and home to almost 6,000 hectaires of vines and 800 producers. This is the heart of historic bordeaux, with the first vines planted around the time of the Romans, several centuries before the Médoc was drained. The prominent grapes here are Merlot and Cabernet Franc with the left bank star Cabernet Sauvignon only playing a minor role. This is because of the soils, which suit these varieties, with the better sites having a combination of limestine and clay that help produce elegant yet structured wines that can develop over many years. The sandier soils in the region make fruitier wines for early drinking.

Burgundy vies with Bordeaux for the title of the world's leading fine wine region. Bordeaux is all about grand Châteaux, large vineyards and structured wines. In contrast , Burgundy is about small domaines, tiny vineyard parcels, and elegant red and whites in equal measure.The area begins with Chablis a couple of hours drive south of Paris, and extends right down through Beaujolais to the city of Lyon. Both red and white Burgundies can be fabulous drinks, but the really good wines are made in minute quantities and are very expensive. Because the area isn’t warm, it’s difficult to ripen the grapes and only the best sites regularly manage it, particularly in reds.

The majority of the vineyards follow a narrow strip of hill running south from Dijon, linking such notable villages as Nuits-St-georges, Vosne-Romanée, Volnay, Chassagne-Montrachat and Puligney-Montrachat. the vineyards are split into hierarchical arrangement depending on the quality, with the Gand Cru being the pinnacle, then Premier Cru, then village level followed by generic Bourgogne. Quality can vary quite a bit depending on the vineyard and the producer, but the best red and white Burgundies are the ultimare example of these great varieties.

Reds

Around Chablis in the north you will find a few pale red wines, but all the best reds are to be found around Beaune. The temperamental Pinot Noir is the grape, and the wines rarely have much colour, but they can have a lovely perfumed sweet fruit. The most well known are Nuits Saint Georges, Vosne-Romanée, Beaune and Volnay

 

Whites

These start with Chablis in the north. It’s cold area and the grapes have trouble ripening, but there again the Chardonnay, the white grape of Burgundy, makes fine white wines that are not too expensive. Further south around Beaune – around Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet you will find excellent nutty dry white wines. As you travel further south into Cote Chalonnais, you will find that the quality is a lot less – a very soft, less appetising wine.

If you like a sparkling wine – then try Crémant de Bourgogne is a really good glass of bubbles.
BeaujolaisThis is the all-time party red that you cannot and should not take seriously. The French have a word for it “gouleyant” which means the wine just flows straight down. Beaujolais – bright, light, quaffable, easy-going red wine. Beaujolais Nouveau is the most famous type of Beaujolais wine, released in November each year. During the rest of the year bright fruity Beaujolais Villages is the best bet – always drink as young as possible. This is a wine made from the Gamay grapes.

Champagne

This is the nearest wine region to the ports of Calais and Dunkerque – it’s only a couple of hours drive to Reims, the main champagne town. Although this region is in the north France, it is only possible to make wine because the region has numerous river valleys and hillsides that are protected from the wind and rain. The most famous Champagnes are made by the big, widely advertised companies Moet et Chandon, Lanson or Mumm. There again lots of small companies also make good fizz. In more recent times, growers who previously sold their grapes to the big companies are now making the wine for themselves. When driving round the area you’ll see numerous signs pointing the way to these vineyards. No visit to this area would be complete without visiting at least one or two. Just drop in, taste the wines, and if you like them – buy them. You can save a lot of money if you buy your “fizz” in Champagne, plus you get to meet the men and women who make it.

Languedoc – Roussilion

The Languedoc and Roussilion are two regions that are ofeten considered as one. The vast wild untamed Midi region of Southern France is home to this enormous wine producing area. Stretching from Nîmes in the Rhone Valley almost to the Spanish border. It’s the most prolific wine region in the world, making 10% of the world’s wines and one third of France’s wines. Yet most people hardly know anything about it, the reason being because all those anonymous litres of rough house wine we used to bring back from holiday – they were all from the Midi. This is a very old wine producing area that dates back to Roman times, away from the flat lands by the Mediterranean, in the hills, you will find many high quality vineyards. Red wines are best, so look for names like Côteaux de Languedoc, Pic St Loup, Minervois and Corbières. Limoux is the best white area and there are lovely sweet wines like Muscat de Rivesaltes. If you’ve noticed lots of wines called by their grape name, Chardonnay, Cabernet etc, with the title Vin de Pays d’Oc – these come from anywhere in the Languedoc.

Closer to the Spanish border is Roussillion which has its own share of ambitious producers, and the celebrated reds of Bandol and the sweet red wines of Maury, a small area in the foothills of the Pyrennees to the north-west of Perpignan.

This is the home of the Sauvignon Blanc, a grape variety that is used to make two of the region's most famous wines, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé.These neighbouring regions have ideal soils and climates to make complex, food-friendly expressions of Sauvignon with subtle green herbal notes and a distinctive mineral dimension. Less expensive Sauvignons are made in Touraine, a favourite of ours, a wine that has been markedly improved of late. Then there is Vouvary, made with the Chenin Blanc, which can be dry, semi-day, sweet or sparkling - an ideal every day bottle of bubbles!! Then there is the famous Savennières from La Roche-aux-Moines and La Coulée-de-Serran. We store this wine for at least 10 years before considering serving it to our guests. Beware it is an acquired taste as it is very dry and straight out of the bottle has the odour of wet wool but do not worry it will be perfectly sound. We always decant it before our guests arrive so as it has time to breath, producing an aroma of straw and sweet grass, which combine with the more typical chenin blanc characteristics of flowers, chamomile and honey.

The west of the region produces the bone dry ,seafood-friendly Muscadet, something we buy in case quantities becaus of our love of seafood. To the north of Chinon is the village of Bourgueil, home to a fabulous red barbecue wine that is quite happy to be served chilled - ideal for a summer garden party. So please visit a our longstanding friend Jean-Claude and his sons and grandsons - take a glass of wine with them in the kitchen.
AUDEBERT & FILS - Avenue Jean Causeret - BP 39 - 37140 Bourgueil, Tel : 02 47 97 70 06

Finally for those that like a sweet white wine, Coteaux de Layon is just for you - spend an afternoon in Chaumes.

Provence

Most of the wine produced in the region seems to be drunk in the region, usually on the beach as far as we can tell. We feel that the producers could try a little bit harder a make some better wines, but with a captive market, most producers simply provide vast quantities of rose and some fair red and whites for the bars and restaurants of the Riviera. The only really good wine we have found from this region is Bandol that is produced around the fishing village of the same name west of Toulon. Bandol AOC covers the production of 8 communes with silicon & limestone soils. Those soils and the warm, coastal climate are ideally suited for the late ripening Mourvèdre grape which is the major varietal of the region. For both the red and rosé wines, Mourvèdre must account for at least 50% of the blend, though most producers will use significantly more, with Grenache & Cinsaut usually filling out the rest of the wine’s composition.

Côtes du Rhone

 

This wine region starts south of Lyon and continues almost to the Mediterranean. In the north the river cuts through the edge of the Massif Central and the hillsides are extremely steep. At Cote Rotie and Hermitage the vineyards that cling to these rocky slopes date back to the time of the Roman invasion. The Syrah grape makes exquisite smoky red wines and the floral Viognier and honeysuckle–scented Marsanne and Roussanne make gorgeous whites.The most famous wine of this region is Chateauneuf du Pape – a rich, heady and spicy red (not for the faint-hearted).

 

The northern part of this area is the birthplace of the Syrah grape variety. The famous Hermitage and Cöte-Rötie are considered the ultimate examples of Syrah, the latter being less structured and more perfumed, occasionally helped by a small addition of the white Viogner grape variety. Cornas is another excellent Syrah, and more affordable fun canbe had with Syrahs from St Joseph and Crozes Hermitage. In this area another of our favourites is to be found Condrieu, an AOC white wine made exclusively from the Viognier grape. A wine for special occasions so expect to pay around 20-25€ a bottle.

 

The Southern Rhône is a big area, mainly planted with grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, with the former dominent in most blends. Affordable Côtes de Rhône reeds can give a lot of pleasure with their bright cherry red and plum fruit with a hint of pepper, higher up the quality treee are the likes of Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras, which tend to be denser and more structured. There are some white wines but they are a sideshow.

The Qwerky South West

Welcome to qwerky country, and we mean this in the kindest possible way!! This wine producing region is a treasure trove for those looking for something a little different This is where you find the blood and iron tinged reds of Irouleguy, in the Northern Basque country. The grapes are cultivated on terraces between 100-400m above sea-level in soils with a deep red cdolouration. Then there are the meaty Marcilac reds made from the dark-skinned Fer Servadou grape that has made its way from the Spanish Basque country in the late 1800's.
Cahors is another of our favourites, a great country wine from the region made from Malbec, Merlot, Tannat and Jurancon Noir grapes. Dark and highly tannic, please remember to let it age in the bottle, that will allow it to soften. Another red wine is Madiran, based around the Tannat grape and very good accompayment to Foie Gras.Then there are the magical Jurançons are produced by vineyards on the slopes of the Pyrenees inland from Biarritz and south of Pau, a region that can trace its wine making back to the time of the baptism of King Henri IV. The vine growers use traditional grapes such as Lauzet, Petit and Grand Mansengs and Courbu. Sweet Jurançon is a golden wine with exotic fruits and honey aromas. It can age for a very long time. Dry Jurançon has a colour drawing towards clear green. The Blanc de blanc (white from white) is a fresh and aromatic dry wine. Finally there are the Frontons, Gaillacs, and the very differant Comté Tolosans from around toulouse, they come as Reds, Whites, Rose's and a spectacular bottle of bubbles with an aromatic elegance and a nice acidity that translates into freshness on the palate.

And last but not least some real oddballs.

Côtes de Jura:This wild wooded mountain area on the border with Switzerland produces some wines that can be a bit unusual, especially whites from the Savagnin, which when called Vin Jaune (yellow wine) taste and look rather like sherry. But the Chardonnay is pleasant as is the Pinot Noir red and “the bubbly” is pretty good as well.

Savoie: This is an area that you have more than likely visited during the winter because this is the heart of the French Alps, and skiing is big business here. But when the snow clears these high Alpine meadows do shelter some beautiful vineyards that produce some delightful fresh whites and pleasant sparkling wines. When the summers have been hot there’s a rare but lovely spicy red called Mondeuse - expect to pay around 16€ from the vineyard. If buying from a wine merchant beware of the Argentine version as it is not a patch on the Savoie original..

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