The Great Wines of Northern France
By Gary Parker, Owner
The WineSellar & Brasserie
The Northern section of France excels in the production of white wines. There are four distinctly different and famous regions: Champagne, Loire Valley, Burgundy and Alsace.
The Champagne region is France’s northern most wine producing area. Grapes here have a difficult time ripening as the weather is generally cooler, and the growing season shorter. In fact, growers and producers in Champagne have an average of three out of every ten years where they can claim a vintage year.
To make our most prized sparkling wine on the planet, the growers favor Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are red wine varietals, but often add little or no color to the final product. To get the Rose’ color, Pinot juice is left to macerate with the harvested grapes for an extended period.
Another wine growing region that specializes in growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is Burgundy. Some of the greatest and most expensive of these varietals are grown here on specific plots of vineyard property. Red and white Burgundy can be cellared for decades, increasing complexities and becoming silky smooth.
For white Burgundy, look to names like Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet, Chevaliers-Montrachet, and the pinnacle Chardonnay in the world, Le Montrachet.
For red Burgundy, Pommard, Volnay, Nuits-St.George, Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Echezeaux are the most noteworthy.
For both red and white Burgundy, drinking them with delicate food preparations is preferable as the focus should be on the wine.
Also in the Burgundy region is Chablis, which makes stunning, mineral-driven wines made from Chardonnay grapes that typically do not see any oak aging. The wines are lean, complex, and superior with all kinds of food. Great Chablis will age three decades. Drinking a great, older Chablis is a mesmerizing experience.
From the Sauvignon Blanc grapes, we get Sancerre, Pouilly Fume’, Menatou-Salon, Quincy and Reuilly. Meant to be consumed within two years of the vintage, these are fabulous with cheese, and whitefish with herbed sauces.
From the Chenin Blanc grape, we get Vouvray and Savennieres wines known for their high acidity when young, as well as their ability to age well. Also, Muscadet grapes produce excellent wines that are rounded and firm. Oysters are the classic food match!
90% of the wine production in Alsace is white wine. They are distinctive with impressive aromatics, balance, and acidity. Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer head the list of varietals. All are great with pate’, cold cuts, and rich foods.
There is also lovely sparkling wine production here, called Cremant d’Alsace. You can get these beautiful sparkling wines for $20-$30… a knockout value.