In honor of Bastille Day—or la fête nationale—this year, Katie Melchior of @FrenchWineTutor is taking us on a virtual tasting tour of France through our wines. Read on for seven wines she loves from seven different regions and join us in celebrating this year by cracking open your favorite French wine. Cheers!
Let’s start in the northwest corner of France, the Western Loire Valley. I have nothing but fond memories of Muscadet, and it remains one of my go-to French white wines today. This wine is a classic example of the category, with a characteristic combination of lemon-lime acidity and a breath of salinity from the Atlantic Ocean.
Pairings: French oysters are classic, but this is also going to be a great one for all kinds of other seafood and fish (like cod – known as cabillaud in France, which the French eat pretty regularly), and its tang will go nicely with the soft goat cheeses from the Loire Valley, like Crottin de Chavignol and Bûcherondin.
Hop on the virtual train from Nantes to Bordeaux. Once you arrive and settle into a nice little bistrot, you’ll probably find a Bordeaux just like this one on the menu. While Bordeaux is renowned for its high-priced grand cru classé, I’m always more interested in regional appellations like this one that you can open just about anywhere and pair with just about anything. The value for price ratio here (and for many appellations like it) is incredible. This wine is 95% Merlot, and only 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, which means it’s a bit more lush, approachable, and great to drink now.
Pairings: If you really want to go all-out southwestern French, this wine screams to be paired with a salade magret de canard – a French duck breast salad. And if you’re feeling extra fancy, seared foie gras will also be a major hit.
Today's generation of Languedoc producers are growing incredible grapes and making impeccable wines. And did you know the Languedoc grows the most organic grapes in all of France? If you’re an eco-conscious consumer, an organic Languedoc rosé like this one is the way to go this summer.
Pairings: The beauty of rosé is that it can pair with just about anything! I love a rosé with a cheese and charcuterie board in the summer. It’ll pair in equal measure with any dried or cured meats you have (try a saucisson sec or jambon de Bayonne if you want to go extra French), olives, and both hard and soft cheeses alike.
There is no other region in the world that elevates the rosé category more than Provence. This one is full of luscious strawberry and raspberry aromas. On the palate, it explodes with juiciness and is balanced with medium acidity. While drinking this, it’s almost like I could smell the Mediterranean breeze and lavender wafting through the air. Ah, Provence – the true heart and soul of France!
Pairings: Provence has no shortage of culinary delights, many of which will be easy to replicate in your American kitchen. Make a deliciously light salade niçoise or pair this wine with grilled white asparagus. If you’re looking for something a bit warmer, make the most of your summer vegetables with a classic ratatouille and roasted chicken.
Rhône and Provence are sisters both in geography and winemaking tradition. You can easily drive from Aix-en-Provence to the heart of the Rhône region within an hour, and when you get there, you’ll find wines for all seasons and occasions. Côtes du Rhône is, in my opinion, the perfect summer red. Juicy, fruit-forward (think blackberries and dark cherries in this Grenache dominant blend), great with a bit of chill and way too easy to drink -- that’s what you’ll find in this delicious light red.
Pairings: Lyon, at the north of the Rhône Valley, is a French culinary mecca and its influence is evident throughout the region. A less famous French salad from there is the salade lyonnaise, which follows the same pattern as salade niçoise but substitutes bacon for the tuna. The salty umami you’ll get from the Syrah in the wine and the bacon will be addicting.
Can you imagine driving through the Rhône and into Beaujolais? At the top of the Beaujolais territory is Juliénas, one of the best kept secrets of the 10 Beaujolais crus. This wine is earthy with a little bit of spice at the end, which perfectly complements the blueberry and cherry flavors you also get on the palate. Beaujolais is one of my all-time favorite regions in France and if you try more of the crus ,you’ll understand why.
Pairings: Break out the grill! This Beaujolais is begging for salty grilled meats, grilled salmon, and even vegetables. Cuisine in the region is simple yet refined. A plate of cheese, a simple romaine salad, and all kinds of summer grills will celebrate this wine in equal measure.
There’s no better place to end our Tour de France than Burgundy. The heart of French culture is also home to (arguably) the best wine region in the world. It’s been impressing palates for centuries and today is no different. This Chardonnay is a classic, old world, Bourgogne style wine. It’s a balance between green apple and pear flavors with those of characteristic new oak. Definitely a lovely summertime go-to!
Pairings: Dare I say it – escargot? This buttery French favorite (which you can typically buy frozen now from many mainstream grocery stores) will balance the richness in the Chardonnay beautifully. If you’re a bit less adventurous, try a batch of classic gougères, a savory puff pastry that’s filled with cheese.
Et voilà! I hope you pop open a bottle of one of these impeccable options from France this Bastille Day. No matter where you are in the world, I truly believe that French wines can always enrich your experience. Pick up these wines on ninetypluscellars.com and follow me on Instagram at @FrenchWineTutor for more recommendations, pronunciations, and pairings!