Is it possible to get your arms around the wines of France in a single tasting session? Can you learn to make sense of French wine labels, not to mention grapes, wines and baffling place names in a mere 90 minutes? While some oenophiles might find such questions preposterous, the tasting group at last month's Wine Essentials: Wines of France answered with a resounding oui!
We used a map and pencil to divide the country into three large zones. Two swiggly lines and voilà, the fog surrounding French wines began to clear.
Tasters drew their first line from west to east, just below the cooler vine lands of the Loire, Champagne and Alsace. (The line also separated northernmost Chablis from the rest of Burgundy.)
Next, a second line was penciled below more temperate Bordeaux and Burgundy. This mark also delineated warmer wine-growing regions to the south, bordered by Spain at the Pyrénées: Languedoc Roussillon, Côtes du Rhône and Provence. Off the coast and further south lies Corsica, an off-the-radar source of French island delights. Take a look at this map to put these regions in perspective.
Geography provided visual and conceptual reference points. That framework led us to tackle soil types, terrain and grape varieties that thrive in these climatically distinct regions. By the time we celebrated our arrival at the finish line of our tours de France with a Syrah from the southern Rhône, the group could practically see and taste sunshine in the glass.
With more terroirs, grapes and wines left to explore, this is a class we'd like to replay in the future. Social and corporate groups would enjoy this activity too. Next time, we might feature wines from other French regions or different wines and blends from the areas covered on this wine trek.
Wine Essentials heads south on Sunday, April 29 with tastes of wines from Spain and Portugal. The map trick might not work as well for Iberia, but bet on geography to help make sense of these captivating wines. Reserve early, as these classes tend to sell out: 760.777.1161 or click here to reserve online.
Wine Essentials is an open series of wine tasting classes. Each class is independent so you can pick and choose topics, wine styles or regions that interest you most. We welcome those of you who are new to wine, as well as the wine-experienced – all you need is to arrive on time with a clean palate, an open mind and ready for fun. As a courtesy to all, please skip the fragrance.
If you missed French wine essentials and want to try something like this on your own, here are the wines we enjoyed alongside Chef Andie's wine-friendly snacks. If these wines are sold out at the Cooking with Class wine boutique, ask for a similar wine in stock, or place your special order:
Jaffelin 2010 Chablis (Chardonnay)
Marie de Beauregard 2009 Vouvray (Chenin Blanc)
Marie de Beauregard 2009 Chinon (Cabernet Franc)
Jean-Pierre Moueix Chateau Grand Village Bordeaux Superieur 2007 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc)
Chateau de Saint Cosme 2010 Côtes du Rhône Rouge (Syrah)