French wines have always made people dream and continue to surprise even the savviest consumers. With 375 AOCs, 210 authorized grape varieties, 17 wine regions, 85,000 wineries and around 780,000 hectares, there is always something new to discover! Here is a French tour with 10 unmissable wine stops.
Northernmost French vineyard, the Charbonnay pushes the boundaries of traditional viticulture. Located in Haillicourt (between Bethune and Lens), this micro-vineyard of 0.5 hectare is a project as original as it is audacious, initiated in 2011 by two winegrowers: Olivier Pucek and Henri Jammet. Assisted by four partners, they planted 2,500 vines of Chardonnay on top of a pile of coal residues.
A terroir white wine drawing its character from poor black shale soils made of coal residues, on slopes facing south, up to 80% inclination! Delicious, concentrated and rare (only 800 bottles), it is aged for 12 months in Burgundy barrels. The 2018 vintage is available for sale from September 2019 at a few privileged French wine merchants. Notice to fans, there will not be enough for everyone.
Created in 1997 by Isabelle and Jean-Michel Mangeot, the Domaine Régina has 15.5 hectares planted on clay-limestone soils. In July 2015, after the passing of Jean-Michel, Isabelle alone took the reins and continued the work undertaken by her husband, supported by two workers.
Extraordinary courage and indisputable talent allowed her to maintain the Domaine Régina at the top of the appellation. The Gris de Toul from the estate – which is the signature wine of the region, made from Pinot Noir and Gamay – gives the pleasure of rediscovering gastronomic rosés at affordable prices.
The lovely story of Sandrine and Olivier Dovergne deserved a stop in Burgundy. In 2014, they left their respective jobs and decided to sail the Atlantic by sailboat for 18 months, accompanied by their two children. A trip called Vents d'Anges, and the idea was to share French wines with their guests during their stopovers.
Back in France, they feeded the dream of becoming winegrowers. In 2017, they acquired the Domaine de la Luolle in Moroges, not far from Rully: 8 hectares grown organically and planted with Aligoté, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay. Olivier is in charge of viticulture and oenology, Sandrine manages the trade, the communication and the bottling. Their wines are absolutely delicious.
This little corner of paradise nestled between the Mont Ventoux, the Dentelles de Montmirail and Carpentras, produces exceptional wines.
A total of 3 hectares planted with Grenache noir, Syrah, Grenache blanc, Viognier and Muscat blanc à petits grains, from 45 years old vines grown organically on flint and clay soils.
The Domaine des Enchanteurs is owned by Catherine Desbois-Mouchel – who is also the owner of the Remond cooperage factory in Burgundy – and is run by Bertrand Seube, the winemaker.
We loved the cuvée "Rêve de Rubis 2011" in Ventoux appellation: 50% Syrah-50% Grenache, aged 14 months in Remond barrels. A delicate unfiltered red wine with aromas of white pepper, star anise, cassis and undergrowth.
Do you know the AOC Bellet? It is the only French appellation integrated into a metropolis: the entire vineyard is in Nice. An AOC obtained in 1941 by Pierre Thomé, then owner of Château de Crémat and president of the Syndicat des vignerons. Château de Crémat has 7 hectares spread over the hills of Crémat, Saint-Sauveur and Saquier.
The vineyards were classified organic in 2017 and is planted with Rolle (Vermentino), Chardonnay, Folle noire, Grenache noir and Braquet on silico-limestone soils.
The vineyards are swept throughout the year by downward winds coming from the Alps and the Baie des Anges. Deep, salty and generous wines. Delicious.
A stone's throw from the Mediterranean, do not miss the château Fabre Cordon, in the village of Peyriac-de-Mer.
A vineyard of 15 hectares bordering the pond of Bages-Sigean and cultivated organically since always. Syrah, Grenache noir, Carignan and Mourvèdre are found on clay-limestone soils, Cabernet Sauvignon on sandy-clay, Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Vermentino on clay-loam soils.
At the initiative of Monique and Henri Fabre, the estate left the cooperative in 2000 and began its own production. Today in the hands of their daughter Amandine, the estate produces precise, gourmet and lovely wines.
A Plô, in Occitan, is a small plateau. That of the Grand Bâtard estate is located in the Carcassonne hinterland, 350 meters above sea level, on clay, limestone and sandstone soils.
A place where the sun, the regular wind and the temperate nights in summer offer all the assets to make beautiful wines. The reds are made for ageing. Behind this project, two childhood friends: Pierre Caizergues, an epicurean globe-trotter, and Julien Gil, winemaker and owner of the Plo Roucarels.
Surprising wines that deliberately step out of line. In the reds (Syrah /Cabernet Sauvignon), there is a hint of Chenin blanc, bringing freshness and suppleness to the wine. In the white, the Chardonnay/Chenin blanc blend is as unusual as it is successful.
This family estate of 22 hectares, located along the foothills of the Pyrenees, seduces as much by the quality of its wines as by the kindness of its owners.
It owes its name to the peak of Rives-Blanques at the top of which is a variety of quartz omnipresent in fragments in the vineyards, which mixed with clay, pebbles and sandy soils offers an ideal terroir for Chardonnay, Chenin blanc and Mauzac, the three white varieties allowed in the AOC Limoux.
At the head of the estate, Jan & Caryl Panman, a Dutch couple who settled here 20 years ago. Helped by their son Jan-Ailbe, who has been working with the wines since 2017, they produce remarkable wines.
For those who love fine bubbles, the J. Laurens estate, located in the town of Digne d'Aval, should please you! Owned by Jacques Calvel, it specializes in the production of sparkling wines.
There, you can find three styles of wine. The Crémant de Limoux vinified according to the traditional method (second fermentation in bottle) and using 4 grape varieties: Chardonnay and Chenin blanc (90% max.), Pinot noir and Mauzac (40% max. for both).
The Blanquette de Limoux also vinified using the traditional method, with 90% Mauzac and 10% Chardonnay and/or Chenin blanc at most. And the ancestral method, a sweet sparkling wine grading at 6-7° C alcohol, 100% made of Mauzac. Wines to take very seriously.
The Guimbelot, located in Saint-Sornin, 20 kilometers from Angoulême, is probably the best winery in Charentes.
Obtained at the end of 2018 by Corinne Millon and Freddy Radepont, this 4.5 ha estate is planted mainly with Chenin blanc and Chardonnay on poor soils of flint and clay, with a density of 10,000 plants per hectare.
The wines are vinified and matured in casks in a magnificent vaulted stone cellar built under the domain.
Corinne and Freddy have planted 0.5 ha of Viognier, 1 ha of Pinot Beurot (Pinot gris) and 0.5 ha of Chauché gris. What a way to expand the range and satisfy the amateurs?
In France 10,000 wineries are open to the public all year long and await your visit! So you too, share your favorites and your best visits with us. It's always a pleasure to discover new places.
Thank you to the Domaine Régina, Château de Crémat, Charbonnay, Domaine La Luolle, Domaine des Enchanteurs, Château Fabre Cordon, Plô Roucarels, Château Rives-Blanques, Domaine J. Laurens and Guimbelot for their warm welcome. Thank you also to the tourist office of Limouxin for their time.