The Event
Vicariously French
© by Sheral Schowe
France is one of the most important wine producing countries in the world because it has served as a model for grape growing and winemaking in most other wine producing countries. The wine laws of the European Union were inspired by the French model for the identification of wines and regulation of production.

The most popular wine grapes in the world such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, among others, originated in France. The United States and other new world countries use the same winemaking techniques as in France to produce wines in similar styles. The uniqueness that we consumers experience in a Chardonnay from France and one from California, for instance, has a lot to do with the difference in soils and climate where the grapes are grown. If you are willing to spend a little more, the differences really become pronounced. One member of our tasting group described a French Chardonnay as a "light rain" reminding her of the mineral scents imparted from the earth during a rain. Most tasters commented that they had not experienced a California Chardonnay quite like the French. We can duplicate the grapes, the technology, even use the same winemaker, and the wine will still taste different in each country it is grown.

If you want to do a little French wine tasting of your own, here are a few recommendations for you to take a vicarious sensory tour of France. Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 1999 ($19.00) is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. Verget Chablis 1999 ($26.20) is 100% Chardonnay from the northern French appellation of Chablis. It is crisp, clean, and bone dry without a hint of oak. The mineral qualities in the aroma extend to the palate along with a slight nutty characteristic and a long citrussy finish. Verget Pouilly Fuisse 1998 ($25.55) is Chardonnay from Burgundy. It is very aromatic with minerals and apple. The flavors are a pleasant surprise of lemon, minerals, and a light toastiness, finishing with a burst of acidity.

For red wines, don't overlook the bargains. The Georges Duboeuf line of crus Beaujolais are exceptional. They are fruity, light, and very enjoyable. I enjoy Fleurie ($12.55), Morgon, and Moulin A Vent the most. Louis Jadot Bourgogne 1997 ($16.90) from Beaune is an outstanding Pinot Noir. It has intense aromas of cherry, raspberry, smoke, and rare red meat. It is delicious with grilled salmon, poultry, and vegetable dishes.

Chateau La Rose Bellvue 1997 ($10.50) from Cotes de Blaye, Bordeaux is an incredibly priced wine that is ready to drink today. If you have little cash and little time to wait for a higher priced Bordeaux to age in your cellar, this is an impressive one for tonight's dinner. Chateau de Pez 1995 ($32.55) from Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, is another story. This wine, although enjoyable today, could use a few years in the cellar to really open up. With all of the components required such as tannin, acid, and fruit, in place, it will probably be worth the wait.

Oct. 3, 2000

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