French Wines Without Fear

Knowing a few basics can help you choose French wines with confidence.



Think of a wine-producing country and France springs quickly to mind. For centuries that nation has taught the civilized world the joys of a glass of red, white or rosé (even in English we use the accented French word). But for the nonexpert who shops for a bottle when company’s coming, the world of French wines can be un peu scary.

“People tend to be intimidated,” says Anna Katharine Mansfield, an assistant professor of enology (wine science) at Cornell University. “And the biggest reason is that French wine labels traditionally don’t tell you what kind of grape the wine is made from. They don’t say ‘Pinot Noir,’ for example. They tell what region it’s from, and you basically have to know the regions and subregions and what may be grown there.”

Such permission comes from the French government under a system called AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), which guards the reputations of the country’s famous wine regions by specifying that only the varietals for which they’re known can be labeled with those regions’ names. For example, the not-so-fruity wines called Bordeaux are from Bordeaux in southwestern France, a “blending” region that tends to use combinations (of the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, for example), while wines from Burgundy in the east come from one type of red grape (Pinot Noir) or one type of white (Chardonnay). And in a sense, if you know France, you know wine.

“France’s regions are considered the worldwide standard-bearers for the grapes they grow,” says Cynthia Murray, co-owner of Spring Lake Bottle Shop in Spring Lake. “There are many charming options in the $10–$20 range, and France still makes the world’s most sought-after high-end wines.”

What’s new

Don’t be afraid to experiment with unfamiliar bottles as you build your vocabulary of French wine regions and the wines for which they’re known—you may discover new favorites. And don’t stop with the most famous regions, such as Bordeaux and Beaujolais. (With Bordeaux, warns Mansfield, you’ll pay a bit of a premium for the name.) Ask your wineseller about interesting new high-quality blends now coming from the southern regions of Languedoc and Provence. Some may not bear their regions’ names because their producers are now getting around the AOC system and labeling by varietals the way their competitors in California and Australia do, says Mansfield.

The best news is that inexpensive French wines are more dependable than ever. “The quality differential between a $20 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle of wine isn’t as great as it was 50 years ago because winemaking technology has advanced,” says Mansfield. “Back then, producers tended to use whatever yeast happened to be available. Today they have microbiologists on staff who take cultures to control for yeast strains, making sure they get the aromas they want.”


WHAT TO TRY, WHERE TO BUY

Cynthia Murray, co-owner of Spring Lake Bottle Shop in Spring Lake, suggests two interesting French wines she says are worth sampling:

WHITE
Foucher le Brun

2009 Sancerre Le Mont from the Loire Valley $19
“Fresh mineral, white flower and citrus aromas with a clean, elegant style. A hint of flintiness on the finish makes this a natural for pairing with seafood.”

RED
Domaine Dotre Dame de Cousignac

2009 Syrah-Grenache from south-central France near the Rhone $12
“A ripe nose of raspberry, spice and licorice and a fresh, juicy palate. Goes with chicken, lamb or beef.”


Also read up on Five Fantastic Spring Cocktails

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The multi-faceted Peter Bradley has had a long and storied career. In 1968, as Associate Director of the prestigious Perls Galleries in New York City, he was one of the first black art dealers...

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The Oyster Point Hotel
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The Oyster Point Hotel
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place
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Sponsor: Oyster Point Hotel
Contact Name: Ellen Martin

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NJ Emerging Artists Series Presents Kate Eggleston: Still Deep    October 18th, 2019 - November 17th, 2019   Opening Reception: Friday, October 18, 6:00 – 8:00 pm  Gallery Talk:...

Cost: Admission

Where:
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765 Newman Springs Road
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Sponsor: Monmouth Museum
Telephone: 732-747-2266
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Above & Beyond: The History of the Medal of Honor explores the history of the most prestigious military decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces. The medal is awarded to...

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The Playground’s strong foundation of respect and encouragement allows for a challenging and diverse, conservatory-level curriculum taught by a staff of dedicated, extensively-trained...

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Cost: Free

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place
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View map »


Sponsor: Oyster Point Hotel
Contact Name: Ellen Martin

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Cost: Admission

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Sponsor: Monmouth Museum
Telephone: 732-747-2266
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Cost: $7 for adults, $5 for students/seniors,Veterans+active military personnel free

Where:
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place
Red Bank, NJ  07701
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Sponsor: The Oyster Point Hotel
Contact Name: Ellen Martin

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The multi-faceted Peter Bradley has had a long and storied career. In 1968, as Associate Director of the prestigious Perls Galleries in New York City, he was one of the first black art dealers...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place
Red Bank, NJ
View map »


Sponsor: Oyster Point Hotel
Contact Name: Ellen Martin

More information

NJ Emerging Artists Series Presents Kate Eggleston: Still Deep    October 18th, 2019 - November 17th, 2019   Opening Reception: Friday, October 18, 6:00 – 8:00 pm  Gallery Talk:...

Cost: Admission

Where:
Monmouth Museum
765 Newman Springs Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Monmouth Museum
Telephone: 732-747-2266
Website »

More information

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The artist Peter Bradley has had a long and storied career. In 1968, as Associate Director of the prestigious Perls Galleries in New York City, he was one of the first black art dealers in the...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place
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Sponsor: The Oyster Point Hotel
Contact Name: Ellen Martin

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Show More...
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The multi-faceted Peter Bradley has had a long and storied career. In 1968, as Associate Director of the prestigious Perls Galleries in New York City, he was one of the first black art dealers...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place
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View map »


Sponsor: Oyster Point Hotel
Contact Name: Ellen Martin

More information

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Cost: Admission

Where:
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765 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ  07738
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Sponsor: Monmouth Museum
Telephone: 732-747-2266
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Cost: $50.00

Where:
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179 Broadway
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View map »


Sponsor: New Jersey Repertory Company
Telephone: 732-229-3166
Contact Name: Ariana Albarella

More information

“Oh, the thinks you can think!” when Dr. Seuss’ beloved characters collide in this unforgettable, fantastical musical extravaganza! Accepted students will create larger-than-life...

Cost: $610

Where:
Count Basie Center for the Arts
99 Monmouth Street
Red Bank, NJ  07701
View map »


Sponsor: Count Basie Center for the Arts
Telephone: 732-281-7560
Contact Name: Rachel Repole
Website »

More information

A World Premiere by Christopher Daftios Directed by Sarah Norris October 24-November 24, 2019 Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.   Aging...

Cost: $50.00

Where:
New Jersey Repertory Company
179 Broadway
Long Branch, NJ  07740
View map »


Sponsor: New Jersey Repertory Company
Telephone: 732-229-3166
Contact Name: Ariana Albarella
Website »

More information

The artist Peter Bradley has had a long and storied career. In 1968, as Associate Director of the prestigious Perls Galleries in New York City, he was one of the first black art dealers in the...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place
Red Bank, NJ  07701
View map »


Sponsor: The Oyster Point Hotel
Contact Name: Ellen Martin

More information

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