Understanding France

I’m sure I don’t have to sing the praises too loudly for Wine Folly. Madeline’s brand of easy explanations combined with beautiful designs create stunning results. So I was delighted to quickly find this map she calls “French Wine Simplified” when searching for a quick way to reorient myself with the country’s geography.

As a California girl (both having grown up there and a preference in its wine), France has always baffled me. I studied Spanish in school, so trying to pronounce a French name while ordering has always turned into the dreaded pointing a finger at the menu. But despite my frustration, I have yet to be disappointed when sipping a French wine.

Very recently, I had the pleasure of tasting two new (to me) wines: Last night, a Pommard premier cru (pinot noir), and about a week ago a Brouilly Beaujolais (gamay). I’m glad that I already have an understanding that the prominent name on the label is the region and not the grape, while each region specializes in particular grapes. Understanding how different wine regions around the world create their labels is half the battle.

But the subregions are still tripping me up. Last night after tasting the Pommard, the sommelier asked for my thoughts. I didn’t know what Pommard was when I ordered it. The bartender explained it was another region in France and was a bit on the heavy/meatier side (I can’t remember the exact wording she used, but that’s how it translated in my head). So later in my discussion with the sommelier I felt very confident to let him know that I was picking up a lot of Burgundy in this wine. To which he replied, “It is Burgundy. Pommard is in Burgundy.” Le sigh.

(Wine Folly also has this excellent map of Burgundy, which I’ll be studying closely today.)


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