Discover Northern France's Wine Regions Through These Delicious Wines
There's no better way to discover a country than through its food and wine and when it comes to France, you're in luck. This country is a feast for the taste buds boasting a wealth of regional wines that offer plenty of choice for your every picnic, mid-week dinner, barbecue, or “just because” needs.
These are the wines to look for from northern France and don't worry – there's something to suit every taste.
Thanks to a combined German and French influence, we'll find grapes in Alsace that aren't grown in other parts of France. In this case, we're talking about Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Along with Pinot Gris and Muscat, these four varieties make up the “noble grapes” of Alsace. The wines can be dry, off-dry, or fully sweet luscious things of beauty. Unless expressly made in a dessert style, Alsatian Riesling will always be dry. Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris are more likely to show a touch of residual sweetness. Beyond the noble varieties, you'll also come across another local speciality. A few local winemakers hold Sylvaner in great esteem for its ability to express terroir, but the grape is only found in a few select parts of Alsace.
The Loire covers a vast swath of land and features many styles and grape varieties across its regions. Starting to the west in the Pays Nantais, Melon de Bourgogne dominates the vineyards of Muscadet.
There are a few appellations in the region, but Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine is widely considered the best. These wines have a creamy texture and a citrusy, mineral-driven, leesy taste. They are beautiful seafood wines – oysters are a classic pairing.
Further inland there's Anjou-Saumur. We begin seeing an explosion of styles and colours of wine produced. You'll find every level of sweetness represented here, as well as incredibly satisfying still and sparkling wines. There are some delicious rosés made in Anjou from Cabernet Franc. The grape crops up in almost every red and rosé in the region. Cabernet Franc is the cornerstone of the Loire and there are delicious examples of this grape (which is occasionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon) in Anjou-Saumur.
Touraine is Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc country. Both the reds and whites of this region can be tucked away in the cellar for several years, improving with age. Chenin Blanc comes in all forms here, still and sparkling, bone dry to honey sweet.
Go to the easternmost reaches of the Loire and you'll get to the Central Vineyards. This is Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir country. Your Sancerres and Pouilly-Fumes are high in acid, packed with citrus, minerality, and a slightly smoky note. Pinot Noir is the red variety of Sancerre and offers a smoky, mineral expression of the Pinot grape.
Burgundy specialises in Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs – in fact, this is where these two grapes originate. At the top of Burgundy is Chablis, renowned for its racy, mouthwatering, and elegant Chardonnays. The grand crus and premier crus wines represent the best of Chablis. This is a place to look if you prefer unoaked Chardonnay.
The reds and whites of the Cote d'Or's Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune are some of the greatest in the world. The grand and premier crus of these regions are rich, often oaked, and delightfully complex. The Pinot Noirs are full of red and black fruit, fresh earth, and typically show a great deal of terroir. The Chardonnays are full-bodied, lemony bordering on marmalade, and can even be a bit tropical with the vanilla smokiness that comes with ageing wine in oak.
At the southernmost part of Burgundy, the temperatures get a little warmer and the wines a little fruitier. Pinot from Mercurey and Chardonnay from Macon are two tasty examples.
When it comes to Beaujolais, there's only one grape to know, Gamay. Related to Pinot Noir, this red grape makes thirst-quenching wines that are full of raspberry, cherry, and violet. Though the likes of Beaujolais Nouveau should be drunk young, some Beaujolais from one of the cru villages can age for several years. Look for Fleurie for a more floral, elegant style or Morgon for something you can pop in the cellar (or drink now).
Producing Champagne is a labour of love but the results are dazzling. Three grapes define Champagne, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. Champagne can be made of any combination of these three grapes or from a single variety. Each brings something to the blend. Pinot Noir brings fruit and structure, Chardonnay adds finesse and acidity, while Pinot Meunier contributes body. Look out for the hand-crafted work of the local growers who sell through their own brands - Growers Champagne offers amazing delights and adventures.
From racy Chablis to luscious Alsatian Gewürztraminer, bright Loire rosés to powerful red Burgundies, there's a wine for every wine lover in northern France. No matter the occasion, the company, or the meal in front of you, there's no going wrong with French wine.