France: Articles on French Wine & Wine Regions

Sancerre/Pouilly Fusse, Loire Valley, France Vintage Charts

Sancerre/Pouilly Fusse,  Loire Valley, France    
2009 90 D
2008 87 D

Cahors – The French Village Where Malbec Got Its Start

Cahors MapThe Village of Cahors is in the southwestern part of France.  The area is known for its red wines made predominantly from the Malbec grape, the same grape that is being used in Argentina to make some of the most popular wines being sold today.  For those fans of Malbec, it may prove interesting to go back and try some wines from its homeland.

Pétrus – An Unofficial First Growth of Bordeaux's Right Bank

When considering the unofficial lists of “First Growths of the Right Bank” in Bordeaux, Chateau Pétrus must be included.  Pétrus is located in the tiny commune of Pomerol on the right bank of the Gironde River.  The wines of Pomerol have never been classified, but there is no doubt that Pétrus is in the highest echelon of wines produced there.  It is also one of the most expensive wines sold anywhere in the world.  While the name of the estate is Chateau Pétrus, there is no grand Chateau on the premises.  There is a modest two story house on the property.  Perhaps because of that, or perhaps just due to its reputation, the wines are often just referred to as Pétrus.  The name is homage to St. Peter whose picture appears on the label.

Pétrus does not have the long history of many of the great Bordeaux wines.  Thomas Jefferson most likely never drank it.  The estate property was originally owned by the Arnaud family since the mid 1700s.  At that time, the estate was 17 acres.  The name Pétrus can be found in records dating back to 1837.  In 1868 Chateau Pétrus was ranked in quality behind two other Pomerol estates:  Vieux Chateau Certan and Chateau Trotanoy, as listed by Cocks and Fèret, one of the leading Bordeaux reference’s of its day.

Cheval Blanc: The “First Growth” of the Right Bank

When the wines of Bordeaux were classified in 1855 all of the wines were from the Left Bank of the Gironde River.  In fact, with the exception of Haut Brion, which is from Graves, all of the wines classified were from the Medoc.  Since that time, the winemaking areas of Bordeaux have greatly expanded.  Some of the best wines in Bordeaux are now made on the Right Bank including some of the most expensive wines in the entire world. 

While there is no official classification system for all of Bordeaux, there can be no doubt that if such a system was implemented today, at least a few Right Bank wineries would make the list.  Perhaps no winery deserves the mythical first growth of the Right Bank title more than Cheval Blanc.  In fact, the wines of Saint Émilion, a commune on the Right Bank, were ranked in 1955 and Cheval Blanc was one of two that received the highest rank of Premier Grand Cru Classé (A).  Those rankings were redone in 1969, 1986, and 1996 and most recently in 2006 (although that ranking is the subject of an ongoing legal dispute not relevant to Cheval Blanc) and Cheval Blanc has remained a First Growth in every subsequent ranking.

Chateau D’Yquem: Greatest Wine in the World?

In the series on the 1855 Classification of the First Growths, I spoke exclusively about red wines.  In that same year, however, the sweet dessert wines from the Bordeaux communes of Barsac and Sauternes were also classified.  All of the dessert wines listed were rated as either premier cru (first growth) or second growth status.  That is, all but Yquem which was rated Premier Cru Superieur (First Great Growth), a higher rating even than any red wine achieved in their 1855 Classification.  Yquem is quite possibly the greatest wine made anywhere and has a history dating back four hundred years!  While every wine region has its stars, there is probably no other winery that so dominates the quality of a region and has such as a lofty reputation as Chateau Yquem.

What makes these wines so special is that they develop a rot called botrytis cinera also known as Noble Rot.  When certain grapes are attacked they get moldy which, in a wonderful twist of fate, causes the grapes to lose much of their moisture, concentrating the flavors.  The resulting grapes look like moldy shriveled raisins that produce a sweet nectar.

Chateau Latour – A Profile of the Remarkably Consistent Bordeaux First Growth

Perhaps the most consistent of the Bordeaux First Growths has been Chateau Latour. While the other four Chateaus have had periods of underperformance, Chateau Latour has been remarkably consistent over the years in making some of the best wine to be found.

Chateau Latour can trace its history back to 1331 when a tower, called Tor à St-Lambert, was built on the site. This tower was used for defense in a battle between the Plantagenets and the French during the Hundred Years Wars. Sometime around 1378, the land, now referred to as “the tower” or Le Tour, was a seigneurie, a sharecropping system of land ownership. In 1453, when the English were finally defeated, the owner of the estate, Sieur de Larsan fled. The property returned to the control of the French and the tower on the site was destroyed. Nothing from it, other than the name, exists today. Sometime in the early 17th century, the the building on the label of the bottle called a dovecot was built on the site of the original tower.

Vin de Pays Wines: France's Best Value "Country Wines"

In most wine producing regions of the world, there is a government body that attempts to classify wines in order to protect both the producers and the consumers from fraud.  This (quasi) gover

Bandol Wines: Great Red Wines from Provence

Provence lies in the south east corner of France.  There are many famous wine regions within Provence, but none make better wines than Bandol.  Wine has been made in Bandol since the Phoenicians planted the first vines 2,500 years ago.

Alsace Wines: Some of France’s Great White Wines

Along the French border with Germany lies the region of Alsace (all-SAHss).  The region’s customs are a combination of both the French and German culture, a result of the political turmoil this region has long experienced.  Alsace has changed ownership four times in the past few hundred years.  Since World War I, this area has belonged to France.  The wines, however, bear as much resemblance to the wines of Germany as they do to the wines of France.  To be more precise, the wines of Alsace are a hybrid of the two, yet distinct from either. 

Beaujolais, France - Wine Vintage Chart

Beaujolais, France    
2010 88 D
2009 97 D/H
2008 8
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