A Quick Guide and Introduction to Wine.
Wine might seem a bit daunting at first. We can help you with that. Enjoy the process. We’ll take it one step at a time.
Step One: WINE REGIONS
A good way to learn about wine is to learn about wine regions. I’ve included special wine regions here, ones that gave birth to the most popular grape varieties for making wine. Interestingly enough, they’re all in FRANCE.
Be sure to learn these regions here and get to know the top varietals within the region (for example for Bordeaux, the top 3 reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, and Merlot). I suggest your homework should be to buy and try these varietals from the original region, and then try New World examples. So that would bring you to cabs and merlots from such places as California and South Africa.
A. – BURGUNDY (Bourgogne in French)
Located in the centre of the map above (shaded in gray), Burgundy produces both whites & reds, often barrel-aged. Chardonnay is a rich and buttery white, Pinot Noir is a soft, delicate red.
Main White Varietal:
Main Red Varietal:
B. – BORDEAUX
Bordeaux is in South Western France (shaded gray, lower left on map). This is the famous wine region with the world’s most sought-after wines. They are rich, bold and full bodied.
Main White Varietals:
Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Main Red Varietals:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot
C. – RHÔNE VALLEY
The Rhône is in South-Eastern France (shaded dark gray on map), and is divided into the Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône, home of Sablet, Gigondas, Cotes du Rhone, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Northern Rhône wines are delicate and light.
The Southern Rhône is especially captivating and gorgeous to visit. I hope you add it to your list of areas to see. The regions and wines are amazing.The wines can be delicate (usually in the north), and robust (southern Rhone). They are often more “rustic” in character than the wines of Bordeaux.
The wines from this geographically beautiful part of France are every bit as exciting as those from Bordeaux but in a different way.
Check out my visit to the Rhône here.
Main White Varietal (Northern Rhône):
Viognier (classic tasting notes of apricots, peaches and wood)
This rare varietal originated in Condrieu, in the northern Rhône. Very nice examples are found in the Rhône valley, California, and Ontario.
Main Red Varietal (Northern Rhone):
Syrah (classic tasting notes: prunes, spices and berries)
The Rhône region has grown it for centuries. You can get some very nice Rhône wines that are 100% Syrah, particularly from the northern Rhône. Other regions blend additional varietals with it, for example, in the southern Rhône. Syrah can possess a mineral, blueberry, and spicy/peppery flavor.
Main Varietals (Southern Rhone):
About 17 varietals officially available. Grenache and Syrah are usually the major varietals.
Two stars are: Grenache and Syrah, both red and usually blended together and with other minor varietals. Try a Southern Rhône wine. They are a discovery!
CONCLUSION for PART ONE: Get to know the Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhône wine regions and their wine varietals. 80% of the varietals on everyone’s wine radar comes from these three viticultural areas. Taste, and pair with food, each region’s top wine varietals as listed above, and over time, compare them with New World examples of those same varietals. It’ll be fun to compare a California meritage blend to the original blend of the same cab/merlot varietals from Bordeaux France! Follow the same process for the other two French wine regions. Enjoy!
A note about wine experiences. My wife and I have been doing this a long time. We’ve covered the world of wine regions and attended or led tastings all over as well. It’s a truly great part of life. And now, let’s get to part two …
☞ To Part Two
Thanks for joining me in the wonderful world of wine! – The Wine Baron