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How to pick a wine in France?

Ohio
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How to pick a wine in France?

I've been searching the web, but am not finding exactly what I need to help me understand how to find the wines I will enjoy while in France. Here in the US, if I want a Pinot Gris, I buy a bottle that says Pinot Gris. How can I tell what varietal I am getting with a French wine? I typically go for dry or semi-dry white wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier, or Sauvingon Blanc. I'm always open to trying new things, but I really dislike very sweet wines and don't want to end up with that. :) What should I be looking for?

Paris, France
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1. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

Alsace wines would probably be your best bet (Riesling, not Gewurtz, which is quite sweeter most of the time), alond with Burgundy. If you can read French, have a look at http://www.nissa-vin.fr/cepages_1,fr,8,40.cfm which whill give you an idea of the different types of grape varieties by region, for both red and white wines.

As you have probably discovered, French wines go into much further details than simply the grape type (which can in fact vary for a given "chateau" from year to year; that's the "assembly" part). Within a given region, you can thus get vastly different levels of sweetness (e.g. in Jura, you have both vin jaune and Chateau Etoile, which have nothing in common, though I personally love both)

Tom

Ohio
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2. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

I cannot read French, but thank you for the info. Rieslings that are available here are typically very sweet, like Gewurztraminer

.

Dublin
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3. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

Thomas M is pointing you in the right direction. Alsace is the only traditional appelation that gives the varietal on the label. Alsace Riesling can be bone-dry and elegant. Alsace also produces very fine Pinot Gris.

Newer appelations and Vins de Pays may also name the varietal - some beat the old appelations for quality (and certainly for price).

Muscadet is another very dry white that is perfect with seafood.

the big blue marble
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4. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

Most of the chardonnays I drink come from Burgundy. They are lighter, less buttery and less oak-y than their California counterparts.

I love a good Meurseault (kind of mineraly, not at all sweet) and Pouilly fumé is a sure fall back when I don't know anything else.

ut the one wime I can always find on every menu, and which I know will always be bright and acid-y is the Sancerre.

You can usually count on the house wine when ordering a meal.

It is pretty rare to fall on a sweet wine and when you order one, the waiter will usually re-confirm, warning you that it is sweet.

Puget Sound
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5. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

As noted by Tom, this topic has no simple answers. Let me add a few generalizations which may be of help.

> Whites from the Bordeaux region are commonly made from the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and tend to be dry. Use of the term "Chateau......" on the label is likely. Bottles usually have necks with "shoulders".

> Whites from the Burgundy region use the Chardonnay grape, are usually more fruity than Bordeauxs, have "shoulder-less" bottles, and may have terms such as "Chablis" or "Meursault" on the label.

> "Sancere" wines are principally Sauvignon Blanc.

> Pinot Gris is often associated with the Alsace region, but many other grape types are grown here, including the oft less-dry Riesling and Gerwurtztraminer.

> Wines from the Rhone Valley often use Viognier as the principal grape.

I realize all the above is a bit sketchy, but hopefully it will provide some macro-direction for you when facing a wall of wine bottles.

Lewes, United...
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6. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

If you mean, how to pick a wine from a restaurant's wine list, and, you've already said that you're open to trying new things, why not let the restaurant's sommellier or wait staff chose for you?

As long as you can communicate enough, tell them what type of grape varieties you enjoy, and also the level of sweetness (or lack thereof) and body you want, and always say how many Euros you wish to spend, and ask for a recommendations. Despite knowing a fair amount about wine, we often happily seek advice, as that way we make new discoveries. They will probably wish to know what you have ordered to eat, and should be happy to recommend something suitable.

SWT

Val-de-Marne, France
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7. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

I would just add that American whites, even those labelled as dry in the US are much sweeter than French whites. So if you ask for a dry here it may feel much drier than what you are used to.

In any case, Riesling is definitely dry here.

I'm not very well versed in white wine but I know those I enjoy: Sancerre, Pouilly fumé, Bourgogne aligoté. When I just want a cheap simple white I find that a Muscadet is always pleasant.

When I vacation in the French Alps I enjoy their little whites but they are not easily found outside the region.

New York
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8. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

Forgive my ignorance, but am I following this correctly: The wines I buy in the U.S. are from France and are labled as "Sauvignon Blanc," but in France the same wines will not have the Sauvignon Blanc labeling but rather will be identified just by region and vineyard? Is that correct, or did I miss a beat? If so, what is besst way to ID what I would consider a Sauvignon Blanc? Sancere is distinct, at least in the U.S. (there are Sancere/Sauvignon Blanc blends that I like, but I tend to not like Sanceres that much). Any tips are welcome!

Paris, France
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9. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

Indeed, Savoy white wines are probably among the driest you could fine; I'm thinking Ripailles and Marin in particular (from the Chablais area, the northern third of Haute Savoie near Lake Leman), which are used heavily in local cuisine (think "diots", fondue, tartiflette...) but are considered by many way too acid for proper drinking.

If you want to discover little known names which you would have a hard time finding at home, you can head to Bistrot du Sommelier on Bd Haussman, held by a former World Best Sommelier (http://www.bistrotdusommelier.com/). Not snobbish at all, reasonably priced and you can discover some interesting wines there.

Tom

London, United...
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10. Re: How to pick a wine in France?

As the OP mentioned the Viognier grape s/he might want to sample one of the lovely whites from Condrieu.