OCTOBER 2015 ;e Costco Connection 65
By Annette Alvarez-Peters
WHAT MAKES FRENCH wine so
special? We could spend pleasant
hours over a nice glass of Cabernet
Sauvignon discussing this topic, but
for now here’s one thought: France
has found great success in limiting
certain grape varieties to very specific regions, then developing rigorous standards for quality in both
the vineyard and the winery. The
result? These fine old-world wines
are most associated with place
rather than grape variety.
With a little research, you can determine
which French region or appellation produces
your favorite wines, and then compare them
with wines made from the same grape but a
different country. Here are some notes to help
you on your way.
The white wines of France are simply
extraordinary. Burgundy’s principal white
grape is Chardonnay, arguably France’s most
popular grape. The terroir offers beautiful
minerality, and the cooler climate produces
lovely, crisp acidity. While many white
Burgundies are rich and powerful, others can
be simple and refreshing, with citrus and
The Loire Valley is home to Sauvignon
Blanc, where dry whites from Sancerre
display gorgeous citrus fruit and minerals.
Exotic gunflint aromas are typical of
Pouilly-Fumé wines. Chenin Blanc
is the other classic white grape of the
Loire and is best reflected in the floral, flinty and honeyed notes of
wines from the Vouvray appellation.
In the Rhône Valley, three grapes
stand out: Marsanne, Roussanne
and Viognier. In Croze-Hermitage
and Saint-Joseph, Marsanne (flavors
of melon, honey, nuts) and Roussanne
(herbal and citrus character) are
traditionally blended together.
Condrieu is home to Viognier, where the
wines feature the bold aromas of fresh, ripe
apricots and peaches. Nearly all French whites
bring the added dimension of minerality
to your glass.
The classics: French reds
Perhaps the best-known classic grape in
France is Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the
finest Cabernet wines produced anywhere are
from the Left Bank of the Gironde River in
Bordeaux. From the powerful and beautifully
structured wines of Pauillac, to the elegance
of Margaux, to easy-drinking cru bourgeois
from the Médoc, there are wines for every
budget and taste.
Merlot is the most widely planted red
grape in Bordeaux and, along with Cabernet
Franc, is predominantly found in the Right
Bank appellations of Saint-Emilion and
Pomerol. These wines can be intense, bold
and capable of lengthy aging.
The most intriguing red wines come
from Burgundy. The Côte d’Or is home to
Pinot Noir, with most production coming
from the Côte de Nuits appellation. The wines
are seductively earthy, with exquisite tart
cherry flavors and, in some cases, are so limited in production that some of the most
expensive wines anywhere hail from here.
The south of Burgundy ends in Beaujolais,
where the Gamay grape is turned into wines
that are fresh, fruity and made to drink young.
Serious Gamay that can age comes from 10
different terroirs of Cru Beaujolais.
In the Rhône Valley, the northern Rhône
features stunning, steep hillsides that produce
powerfully rich Syrah. The topography
changes drastically in the southern Rhône,
where more rolling hillsides and fertile valley
floors produce a broader variety of red grapes.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the most famous
southern appellation, produces elegant,
A bit of the bubbly
While sparkling wines are made in many
regions in France, from a variety of grapes,
Champagne is home to the finest sparkling
wines anywhere, and only wines from this
region can be labeled “Champagne.” Only
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
grapes are permitted in the production and
blending of Champagne. Outside the region
of Champagne, sparkling wines are called
Crémant, indicating that the wines can be
made from grapes other than the traditional
Have a great time comparing your favorite domestic wines to their French rivals.
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s wine,
beer and spirits program.
Fine wines with a sense of place
Vive la F;ance
CHRIS A RUSNAK
You’ll ;nd these ;ne French wines at select Costco locations:
FEATURED AT COSTCO
Louis Jadot Pinot Noir,
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône,
Côtes du Rhône, Rhône
Kirkland Signature™ Brut Champagne,
Château de Thauvenay Sancerre,
Sancerre, Loire Valley