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July 07, 2021 4 min read

Bastille Day, France’s Fête nationale which commemorates the storming of the Bastille on the 14th of July in 1789 and the formation of la République is a celebration that many of us in the wine trade really look forward to, a justification to try something that little bit more special from the extraordinary range of wines that France delivers.  Before we make any wine suggestions it is worth taking note the contribution that France has made and continues make to the world of fine wine. So let’s do that! Arguably, the two most famous white winemaking grape varietals in the world are the Chardonnay and the Sauvignon Blanc.

Chardonnay

The Chardonnay grape is perhaps the world’s greatest white grape and certainly if not ranked number one, it would typically feature in the top three of the vast majority of wine reviewers.  This variety takes its name from a small village in the Mâcconais in Southern Burgundy, the village of Chardonnay which is near to the village of Uchizy. It can have a myriad of expressions from the nervy flinty expressions from the appellation of Chablis to the rich and sumptuous expressions from Pouilly-Fuissé and of course the sublime expressions from the higher appellations in the Côte de Beaune. A real terroir conduit.  It also plays a key role the world’s greatest sparkling wine, Champagne.  It is revered for the elegance that it brings to the classic Champagne blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. For many a Blanc de Blancs Champagne, 100% Chardonnay, is one of the greatest expressions from this appellation.  

Three of our favourites:

Domaine Guerrin & Fils Saint-Véran Le Clos Vessat 2019 - €24 Alc. 14%

Domaine du Colombier Chablis 2018 - €25 Alc. 12.5%

Jean-Marc Vincent Auxey-Duresses "Les Hautés" 2018 - €55 Alc. 13%

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc whose origins is traced to the Loire Valley where its most famous expressions hail from the appellations of Sancerre & Pouilly-Fumé. In these appellations the silex terroir help sculpt wines of great intrigue and intensity.  In Bordeaux it is often combined with the Semillon grape and can make thrilling complex whites that have a great affinity with oak particularly in the appellations of Graves and the higher appellation of Pessac Léognan. Perhaps,  Sauvignon Blanc’s least discussed but most glorious contribution to the world of fine wine is in the blends of Sauternes and Barsac where the magic of the noble rot aligns with this variety and Semillon to make some of the most age worthy and thrilling sweet wines in the world.

Three of our favourites:

Sauvion Haut-Poitou Sauvignon Blanc 2020 - €15  Alc. 12%

Domaine Lebrun Pouilly Fumé 2019 - €20 Alc. 13.5%

Domaine André Vatan Sancerre "Les Charmes" Blanc 2019 - €25 Alc. 13.5%

 

Pinot Noir

A similar story for the reds. Arguably the world’s three most famous red grape varieties in the world are the Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Syrah grapes.   

The Pinot Noir grape often seen as the holy grail of all red grape varieties, achieving its highest manifestation in the higher appellations of the Côtes de Nuits in Burgundy. Like Chardonnay, it also plays a critical role in the making of Champagne and interestingly there is more Pinot Noir planted in Champagne than in in Burgundy. It also stars in the appellation of Sancerre being the grape of Sancerre rouge.

Three of our favourites:

Domaine Michel Noëllat et Fils Savigny-les-Beaune 2018 €39 Alc. 13%

Domaine Cyrot Buthiau Maranges 1er Cru 2018 - €39  Alc. 13%

Domaine Tortochot Morey Saint Denis 2019 - €59 Alc. 13%

 

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon’s origin is traced to Bordeaux, its parentage has been identified as a cross between the Cabernet Franc grape and the Sauvignon Blanc (this was only established in 1997). The cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc is estimated to have occurred middle 18th century so it is a relatively new grape variety. The home of the Cabernet Sauvignon is Bordeaux more specifically what is termed the left bank, the Médoc. Note in Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon will always be part of a blend of grape varieties, other varietals being Merlot and a small bit of Petit Verdot/ Cabernet Franc.  Within the Médoc, the very best expressions hail from the appellation of Pauillac.

Three of our favourites:

Château Camino Salva Haut-Médoc 2016 - €18 Alc. 13.5%

Château Cambon La Pelouse Haut-Médoc 2016 - €30 Alc. 14%

Château Latour, Le Pauillac de Latour 2012 - €90 Alc. 13%

 

 

Syrah

The Syrah grape’s origin has been traced to Rhone Alpes Region. DNA analysis show it is a cross between Mondeuse Blanche (mother) and Dureza from the Ardèche.  The most famous zone for Syrah is the Northern Rhone in the appellations of Côte Rotie, Hermitage, St Joseph, Cornas, and Crozes- Hermitage.  

Three of our favourites:

M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers 2018 - €27 Alc. 14%

E. Guigal Saint-Joseph 2018 - €49 Alc. 14.5%

Cave Yves Cuilleron Cote Rotie Madiniere 2018 - €65 Alc. 13%

 

So, when it comes to great sparkling wines, great sweet wines, great Chardonnay, great Sauvignon Blanc, great Pinot Noir, great Cabernet Sauvignon and great Syrah France can take a bow. Bravo!

 

Some of our favourites to help you and your friends commemorate Bastille Day in style.

Champagne

Three of our favourites

L. Bénard Pitois Carte Blanche (Premier Cru, grower) - Reduced to €35 Alc. 12%

Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV - €59  Alc. 12.5%

Charles Heidsieck Brut 2004 - €169 Alc. 12%

 

Sweet wines

Three of our favourites:

Tour Blanche, Sauternes - Half Bottle 2016  - €35 Alc. 13.5%

Château Coutet Barsac 2005 - €67 Alc. 14% 

Chateau D' Yquem - Half Bottle 2007 - €375 Alc. 14%


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