When you think of wine, what country immediately springs to mind? Chances are, that country is France!
While Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, and Australia have all taken their place in the world as renowned wine countries, France is the country most people equate with quality, tradition, and diversity when it comes to wine. The vinous beverage may not have originated in France, but the French winemakers took the age-old tradition of fermenting grapes and turned it into an art!
French red wine is some of the most popular around the world, not to mention some of the highest quality! Here are a few of the grape varieties and styles of French wine you'll find around the globe:
When you think of red wine, the grape variety that most people immediately think of is Cabernet Sauvignon. This is now the most widely planted grape variety in the world and it's grown in just about every wine-producing region!
Cabernet Sauvignon originated in France, and thanks to its strong aromas and flavours, it has been exported around the globe. It is most prominent in Bordeaux wines in South West France near the banks of the River Gironde, with Cabernet usually making up a blend with Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
It is a full-bodied red, with dominant notes of cedar, baking spices, black currants, and black cherries, and you'll find that the pronounced tannins give it a "peppery" finish. It has a nice balance of acidity, with a strong fruit profile.
If you are looking for a similar but lighter style of red why not even try one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc which has all those hallmark black currant/herbaceous notes associated with this noble variety. See AOC Bourgueil 2013 Château de la Bonnelière
Also known as Garnacha, the Grenache is a grape popular in Spain and Southern France. It is often blended with Syrahs in order to produce a Red Rhône blend (along with Mourvèdre ), and it is a highly recognizable variety.
The grape is believed to have originated in the Aragon region in Northern Spain, but today is used most prominently for French wines from the Southern Rhône - especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is made with 80% Grenache. SeeAOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape Jacqueline André Wines from Aragon and Rioja often heavily feature Grenache.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Pierre André
It has a light to medium body, with a soft acidity and soft tannins. The higher-than-normal alcohol content means that it's a slightly sweeter wine style, and you'll love the bright flavours of red berries. This variety will help you to appreciate an fruit-forward red, thanks to the subtle flavours of raspberries and strawberries.
Merlot grapes are richly coloured and it produces full-bodied wines with lighter, smoother plum flavours and soft, generous tannins. It is often blended with other varieties and exhibits strong hints of cherries and currants, which makes it an ideal partner for the stronger Cabernet or Syrahs. Other characteristics include chocolate, blackberries, liquorice and plums.
It is most commonly used in Bordeaux blends, where it partners with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. See AOC Bordeaux Supérieur 2013 Château Couronneau. For "Bordeaux style" wines, the grapes are harvested early in order to ensure higher acidity and medium fleshy body.
Syrah is the primary grape of the Northern Rhône region, and is used in wines like Côte-Rôtie, Cornas, and Hermitage. In the Southern Rhône, it is usually blended to make world class wines like Côtes du Rhône, Gigondas, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In the New World it takes the name of “Shiraz” popularised by the “Aussie Shiraz”. See Gemstone Shiraz 2013 South Australia.
It is a full-bodied dark-skinned French red variety, with strong fruit flavours. You'll detect notes of leather and tobacco, mixed with bolder flavours of plums, blueberries, and even black pepper. It is not as tannin-heavy as Cabernet Sauvignon, and the subtle tannins lead into a nice, smooth finish, making it a beautiful wine to drink for all occasions.
Note: The famous French red from the Rhône valley is a classic blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache.
If you're a Syrah fan, you'd do well to try the spicy Nero d’Avola from Sicily or an Argentine Malbec. See Domaine Bousquet Premium Malbec 2014 - all wines resembling the Syrah, but with just enough character to make them stand out!
Domaine Bousquet Malbec
Few wines are as synonymous with class and elegance as Pinot Noir, and French Pinots count amongst the best quality in the world. This French variety is renowned for its bursting red fruit flavours, silky tannins as well as a light smooth body.
Notoriously difficult to grow the precocious Pinot Noir is most frequently associated with the Burgundy wine region, where it is used to make some of the world's finest wines of which include Gevrey Chambertin. See AOC Gevrey Chambertin Aux Echezaux 2011 Domaine Michel Magnien. It is also grown in Oregon, California, South Africa, Tasmania, Australia, and New Zealand.
Gevrey Chambertin Aux Echezaux
Pinot Noir is a fruit-heavy wine that tastes strongly of cherries and cranberries. You often get subtle hints of cloves in the mix, along with the earthy flavour of mushrooms as it ages. This light-bodied wine has a higher acidity than many of the other styles of French red wine, with tart flavours that linger on the palate.
This wine pairs brilliantly with:
Soft and nutty, medium-firm cheeses
If you're a Pinot Noir fan but do not want to splash out (they tend to be pricey), try a French Beaujolais - a Gamay based lighter wine with a juicy finish and very similar to Pinot in character.
These five best types of French red wine are some of the most popular options around, and they're definitely worth a try! Though they sometimes command a higher price point than the wines from Australia, Chile or Argentina, it's definitely a good idea to spend a bit more occasionally. You'll soon develop a taste for the quality that has made French red wines the envy of the world!