About the Author

author photo

The French Cycling Bicycle Gourmet - French Country Travel Life Film Maker and Author. Your non-snobby Gourmet Guide to food, wine travel and Lifestyle Adventure!

See All Posts by This Author

French Country Travel Life Wine Primer




This French Country Travel Life Wine Primer needs to start with what will be for some “etrangers” an “A HA” moment – the French are not arrogant. They’re proud. And one of their top (some  – such as DA BG – would say -main) sources of pride, is their wine.  Held in high esteem Internationally. Why? – because it’s regulated and protected to keep it at the top of the World’s “best drinking” list.

My winophile pals at suppitysup.com  fill in the French Wine Quality details….

“You may have noticed “Appellation d’Origine Controlée” on the label of that nice bottle your friends brought to dinner. AOC is a classification that assures you that the wine you’re buying came from a specific town (e.g., Champagne) and accounts for a little over half of French wine production. Vin de Pays designates a specific region in France (about a third of French wine) and Vin de Table, from anywhere in France, makes up the remaining sixth. The take-away is, French wines are named for place, not varietal.

And the systems vary from place to place. Take Burgundy and Bordeaux (two areas of wines we tasted, see below). Bordeaux has a “château” system, established by Napoleon III. The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 ranks wines according to a château’s reputation, trading price and, originally, its wine’s quality. Best known are the top five (also called Premiers Crus): Château Lafite, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Haut-Brion, Mouton. On the other hand, Burgundy has a Grand Cru system. Think of a target with Grand Cru in the center, Premier Cru (or 1er Cru) in the next ring and Villages in the outer ring. Price, generally speaking, descends outward.

Fun facts from class 3:

“Château” (French for castle) means that there’s a wine making facility on the property. Not necessarily the turreted, mansard-roofed stone edifice you picture, could be a shed.
In the thirteenth century the Pope lived in Avignon, in the Southern Rhone. A wine  was made especially for him, hence Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
In the seventeenth century Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc cross-pollinated in France and Cabernet Sauvignon was born.


Onto the tasting. Round One consisted of three whites and a red. The first was a 2011 Thomas-Labaille “Les Monts Damnés” Sancerre (French Sauvignon Blanc), $24. Almost water-white, clear, bright and quite dry, my first impression in both nose and palate was grass and green bell pepper (first time I actually “got” green pepper in wine). Even though our instructor said this wine has good “typicity” for a Sancerre, I was a bit underwhelmed.

Not so with the Riesling to follow (2010 Domaine Dirler-Cade Kessler Grand Cru), $35. Fuller in body and color, a lovely, overripe golden raisin and green apple aroma hints at the slightly sweeter and toasty taste toward the back of the tongue. Would be amazing with asalade niçoise.

The 2010 Domaine Marc Colin En Montceau 1er Cru (Chardonnay), $40, from Burgundy was like a liquid apple pie – red apple, spice and sweet wood (vanilla) aroma followed by a palate of apples, pears and a soupçon of alcohol. Then a somewhat timid, though not at all inexpensive ($50) Burgundy Pinot Noir: Domaine Jacques Frederic Mugnier Clos des Fourches from Nuit-Saint-Georges. A pretty garnet color, offering a light intensity of red cherry aroma with a delicate floral note. Didn’t seem like a lot of bang for the buck, especially considering the “grippy” tannins.

MedocRound Two began with my favorite wine of the evening: 2009 Chateau Potensac Delon from Medoc (Bordeaux), $35. A purply-blue semi-opaque appearance gave way to ripe black cherries, some plum and a lick of licorice in the nose. The palate had a bit of heat to it, with the ripe fruit flavor nicely balanced. Next came a Malbec from Cahors, a 2009 LIonel Osmin & Cie, $15.The most interesting thing about this wine was the huge difference in aroma between still (blackberry) and swirled (cocoa).

A very pretty rosé followed, Le Galantin from Bandol (Southern Rhone), $17. Slightly sweeter than the last wine, which explains why we tasted a lighter after a darker wine. My first big disagreement with the instructor occured here, I offered “lychee and kumquat” on the nose, and got “no” as a response. How different is that from orange peel? Isn’t it all subjective?

I didn’t let this interfere with my enjoyment of the final wine, a 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape by Domaine de Monpertuis, $37. Gorgeous garnet-ruby in appearance with core notes of black cherry and highlights of spice. The palate provided a surprising (to me) addition of strawberry jam and white pepper.

Read more HERE.

and that’s “30” for this French Country Travel Life Wine Primer!


What are ya thinkin’?

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

27 Responses to “French Country Travel Life Wine Primer”

  1. franny packer says:

    really informative stuff!…..getting me VERY thirsty!!!

  2. sun yong says:

    have make notes on all this that you give us. i want to come to france one of the days. this help very much. thanking you.

  3. audrey murphy says:

    great to have you back on the winbe trail!

  4. jim carpenter says:

    audrey……i don’t think DA BG ever left it!

  5. barton devore says:

    as one of your other readers noted….”i’m taking notes!” This is (almost) as good is tasing them. (which i plan to do, natch!)

  6. reggie carstairs says:

    enjoyed the information…but i find the descrptions a little much…like “grass and bell pepper notes.”

  7. joe timmins says:

    right on reggie!….we don’t need all this “i’m cooler than you” wine snob crap. just get real!

  8. martha reavis says:

    hey joe….with you to a certain extent….but….i feel that some description is necessary…..because we can’t taste it by reading about it.(Darn!)

  9. ramon martinez says:

    very cool man!???you’re really down with this wine line bro….really a beer man myself…but some bottles here sound interesting. gonna give it a try. thanks bro!

  10. standish o'malley says:

    like most of your readers, i’m waiting for the ultimate tech miracle..virtual (TASTEABLE) wine!

  11. annie preston says:

    i’m 100% in your corner there standish….but wouldn’t that put a lot of tasting rooms out of business?

  12. morgan thomas says:

    actually annie….it would HELP their business…because the consumer would have already tasted the wine..and be ready to order..right? so “virtual wine” would elimate the “tasting” part of the sales equation.

  13. trish van den bosch says:

    morgan….you’re one smart cookie! if this would hurt anyone..it wuld be the small winemakers i think. because they have to sell from their own place.

  14. ned flatbush says:

    i’ve had it up the yin yang with all this wine crap! don’t you have something really relevant to say?

  15. carol anderson says:

    ned – got dictionary? then look up “relevant”

  16. walt kimmleman says:

    right on carol…..and hey ned….while you’re at it…..good idea to look up “irrelevant!”

  17. kandi sloan-carr says:

    i’m ok with with black cherries and plum…but “a lick of licorice up the nose?” less wine b.s. please!

  18. andrew lack says:

    very comphrensive overview. educational without being too serious. just the right tone. more kudso to DA BG!

  19. leo fincarik says:

    obviously great wine info…but i also really appreciate the link about avignon and the palace of the popes. news to me! (but not now – thanks to you!)

  20. carla bonner says:

    hey leo..i thought that was cool too….and also the video on chateau lafite….

  21. alf landen says:

    you guys have said it all for me! 5 stars (AGAIN!) to DA BG for overdelivering bigtime!!!

  22. lara doone says:

    great wine info nugget in this post, that would otherwise be lost on most non-french..”French Wines are named for place not varietal!”

  23. wilson daniels says:

    another great addition to DA BG “wine library.” Thanks for your “continuing education!

  24. danni ahsley says:

    more fanatastic wine info you are too good BG!

  25. tommy inesti says:

    while the wine info is top notch (as usal!) it’s also great to get the hoistory behind the establishment of the A.O.C system.

  26. jesus martinez says:

    your info just gets better and better! your blog is always my first stop on the net; KEEP THE GOOD STUFF COMIN BG!!!

  27. mark bradley-stebbens says:

    as other readers have noted…the consistent quaity of yourt posts are a giant breath of fesh air on the net. keep up the fresh!

Leave a Reply

Loading Facebook Comments ...