John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

French wine: Sixteen things you should know

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No. 12: The most famous and picturesque wine chateaux are to be found in France. Photo / Thinkstock
No. 12: The most famous and picturesque wine chateaux are to be found in France. Photo / Thinkstock

Today I bring you 16 things you need to know about French wine:

1. They make it in huge volumes.

2. When it's brilliant it's without rival.

3. When it's rubbish it is almost undrinkable.

4. At the top end it is the most expensive wine on the planet.

5. No other country in the world comes near France's reputation for overall quality.

6. The French themselves are very parochial when it comes to regionality. For example, when in the Burgundy area (pinot noir and chardonnay primarily) never order a wine from Bordeaux (cabernet and blends like merlot and cabernet franc). The reverse applies. Once, in the Burgundian town of Beaune, I ordered a bottle of Bordeaux wine and almost got thrown out and told in no uncertain terms that not only was it a major faux pas but also the restaurant did not have even one Bordeaux style wine on the premises.

7. The French rarely drink wine from any other country.

8. They fiercely defend their reputation and right to rule the wine world.

9. Restrictive laws prevent producers from boldly experimenting in the same way that winemakers in other countries can.

10. French wine labels can be confusing and often you have no idea what the exact grape or grapes are in the wine.

11. To date they cling to cork as the only appropriate bottle closure. But chinks are appearing in this stance and some, usually at the much cheaper end, have succumbed to screw caps.

12. The most famous and picturesque wine chateaux are to be found in France.

13. The French are brilliant at promoting and distributing their wine worldwide.

14. Any appalling vintage is never acknowledged and more likely to be referred to as "challenging with reduced volume but increased quality". This is not regarded as lying, but merely managing the truth.

15. A wine described as a vin de table (table wine) will usually be the most basic of wines.

16. A lot of quality affordable French wines are available in New Zealand but you need to go looking for them at boutique wine retailers.

Bonne chance.

Recommended

2009 Chateau Saint Maurice Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes, $29.90
From the quaint village of Laudin, where the Happy family owned the chateau in the 16th century, this wine is a medium style red of grenache and syrah with a mellow, smooth finish.

2010 Richemont du Chateau de Sours Bordeaux Rouge, about $20
Merlot-dominant with a blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, this wine is very stylish and affordable. It has aromas of menthol, raspberry and barley with flavours of blackcurrant and blackberry and is a lighter style, so perfect for lunch.

- NZ Herald

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