We’ve all been there. The wine list, whether it’s a book of 50 pages or one card, has a French wine that’s difficult, at best, to pronounce. And let’s face it, ordering a gorgeous glass of le vin from this beautiful country is hard enough to do thanks to each wine designated by its region instead of grape varietal. Why didn’t I major in French??
Cases in point: Your book club friends are in love with Chablis (“Sha-blee”), but what the heck is it? Spoiler alert: it’s Chardonnay (“Shar-duhn-ay”). And that lovely red wine from Chinon (“Shee-nohng”) that your neighbor has been raving about? It’s Cabernet Franc (“Ka-behr-nay Frahng”). Yep.
The next time you engage in a bit of fine dining or wander into your favorite wine bar with a thirsty palate, be the boss of that wine list. Instead of pointing to the name of the wine you’d like to try, practice a few key words I’ve described below ahead of time. It won’t hurt to sound like you know what you’re doing, even though all you truly want is a darn good glass of French wine.
Following are the names of a few popular wine regions in le Francais and a general tidbit or two about each. This isn’t meant to be inclusive…just a start to help you sort out a few French wines on the list.
Alsace (Ahl-zahss) – Vineyard region located in northeastern France that produces Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Crémant d’Alsace
Beaujolais (Bo-zho-lay) – Region in southern Burgundy that produces the Gamay grape.
Bordeaux (Bor-doh) – Major region that produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and more
Bourgogne (Boor-gohn) – The Burgundy region where you can find Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pinot Noir, and Crémant de Bourgogne
Chablis (Sha-blee) – White wine region located at the northern tip of Burgundy – Chardonnay is cultivated
Champagne (Shawm-pine) – Region found northeast of Paris where Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Petit Meunier are cultivated to produce sparkling wine – Champagne!
Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Sha-toe-nuhf-do-pop) – Located in the southern Rhone Valley where dominant varieties include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault
Chinon (Shee-nohng) – Red wine commune in the Coteaux de Touraine district of the Loire Valley where you’ll find Cabernet Franc
Côte de Nuits (Koht-duh-N’wee) – Northern region of Burgundy where you’ll find Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Côtes du Rhône (Koht-du-Rohn) – Vineyard region in the Rhone Valley
Graves (Grahv) – A red and white wine district of Bordeaux that produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc
Hermitage (Air-mee-tahzh) – Red wine area in the Northern Rhone Valley producing Syrah
Loire (L’war) Valley – Vineyard area along the Loire River that produces predominantly Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Cabernet Franc
Medoc (May-dohk) – The major red wine district of Bordeaux that produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot
Muscadet (Muss-ka-day) – Vineyard region close to the Atlantic Ocean and in the Loire Valley that produces the Melon de Bourgogne grape
Pauillac (Pohl-yahk) – The main parish in the Haut-Medoc area of Bordeaux (see Medoc)
Pomerol (Po-may-rol) – A red wine district of Bordeaux that produces Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon
Pouilly-Fuissé (Poo-yee Fwee-say) – An area in the Maconnais region of Burgundy that produces Chardonnay
Pouilly-Fumé (Poo-yee Foo-may) – Across the river from Sancerre (see below), this area produces Sauvignon Blanc
Sancerre (Sahng-sair) – A vineyard town that produces mostly Sauvignon Blanc and some Pinot Noir in the central Loire Valley
St. Emilion (Seng-tay-meel-yohng) – Red wine district of Bordeaux that produces Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon
Vouvray (Voov-ray) – Located in the Coteaux de Touraine area of the Loire Valley – the Chenin Blanc grape is predominant
Santé! ~ Cindy