Understanding French Wine in 2 Minutes

March 03 2010 - 11:14 AM

Wino I've always shied away from French wine in part because I didn't
'get it' as much as I thought I got wines from other countries. This is because
while I understood different varietals and different climate-related effects of
regions, I was confused by the differences within each French region. White or Red Burgundy, Bordeaux…etc.

But I have some tricks that got
me over the hump. It's not quite wine for dummies… maybe more like
wine
for the ADD.

Other regions tend to put varietals on the label a bit
more often than Bordeaux and Burgundy so let's focus on the big 2: Bordeaux/Burgundy.

This could be you in 2 minutes…

"I've yet to really focus on the Loire (or the Rhone)…" then you tell the sommelier "I'm looking for a good right bank Bordeaux."

Snooty enough for you? Read on!

Here's the simple Bordeaux rule to remember (and sound smart at the same time!)

Bordeaux – Right Bank – Merlot heavy blends
Bordeaux – Left Bank – Cabernet heavy blends

Technically, Red Bordeaux is a blend of any of these 6 grapes:
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and
Carmenere, but you really don't need to remember that (I know- sacrilege!).

White Bordeaux is a blend of Sauv Blanc/Semillon/muscadelle.
It's rare to get that much muscadelle in a bordeaux – it adds sweetness. So you can just focus on Sauv Blanc or Semillon…. White bordeaux is usually Semillon forward or Sauv Blanc forward.
If it's mineral/pear/stone that's the Sauv Blanc.
If it's sunny/woody/floral/bright that's the Semillon – might even remind you of chardonnay.

Burgundy is even easier!

White Burgundy is Chardonnay nearly 100% of the time.

Red Burgundy is always Pinot Noir.

And there you go.

Now you can order wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy as easy as any other Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet or Pinot.

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