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 Filed as : France

France’s Famous Grape Siblings

Apr 24, 2012
France’s Famous Grape Siblings
Meet gamay, aligote, roussanne, and France’s other grapes

frenchgrapesThe primary grapes of France’s major wine regions are like elder siblings. They get all the glory.

But the lesser known grape varietals of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone Valley are just as important. Like middle and younger siblings, they play a vital role in balancing out their wine families, or blends.

Bordeaux: Certainly it is the structure of cabernet sauvignon and the fleshiness of merlot that spring to mind when you think about Bordeaux. But many of these blends would not have their signature violet aromas without cabernet franc. And for at least some Bordeaux blends, the wine’s soft texture can be traced back to a little malbec in the blend. A good example is the CHATEAU PRIEURÉ CANTELOUP Cotes de Bordeaux 2009 ($15), a full-bodied red blend with lush notes of plums and blackberry.

Burgundy: This region is synonymous with pinot noir and chardonnay. But, what about aligote’s role in the sparkling wine Crémant de Bourgogne? Or gamay, the soft, fruity grape that is used to make Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau? We love the GEORGES DUBOEUF “Domaine de Rosier” Moulin-a-Vent 2009 ($10), a rich, ripe, berry-licious wine that makes us want to celebrate the harvest in spring.

Rhone Valley: The elegant white wines of the northern Rhone are dominated by marsanne. But it is from underdog grape, roussanne, that Hermitage Blanc and Crozes-Hermitage Blanc often get their beautiful aromatics. We like the DOMAINE ALBERT BELLE “Les Terres Blanches” Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2010 ($25) for its subtle citrus characteristics and creamy, nutty flavors.

Just like your nutty middle sister.

Which of these grape varietals do you prefer? Tell us below.


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