The history of wine in France spans a period of at least 2600 years, dating to the founding of Massalia (Marseille) in the 6th century BC by Phocaeans, with the possibility that viticulture existed much earlier. Until 2010 the French had always ranked as the highest wine consumers in the world, but were surpassed last year by, you guessed it, the USA. Wine is as much a part of life here as milk ! We have a 20km running race just above Nice through our local vineyards of Bellet and in September there’s the Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc weaving its 26 miles through the Bordeaux vineyards, with wine instead of gatorade offered at the refreshmant stops !
I will occasionally pour myself a glass of rosé on a warm summer’s evening and enjoy my aperitif alone on the terrace with some background jazz, to unwind after a day’s work. But I love wine most in the company of my closest friends, accompanying a lovingly prepared homemade dinner, where, as the bottles are opened, laughter gets louder and stories are shared. Popping the cork, gazing into each other’s eyes as we clink our glasses (not to do so brings bad luck and show a great lack in table etiquette!) and just settling into some good conversation. Unhurried – discussions sometimes ensue – which wine (as one always brings a bottle as a guest, asked or unasked) we should start with – is it as good as the one we opened on so and so’s birthday… vowing to remember to take off the label off the one’s we wish to purchase again.
While I will always ask the cook what wine he/she wants me to bring, I also like the seasonal move into more chilled whites and mellow rosés as the summer heat takes us outside for our meals onto terraces overlooking the Mediterranean! Then the return to heavy reds as winter envelops us.
After 12 years of tastings and recommendations, I think I can tell the difference between a poor and decent wine, though confess the difference between a 20 euros and a 60 euro bottle usually eludes me, as does discerning the region! I was somewhat comforted in this when doing a blind tasting with about 9 friends a few years ago of reds from various French regions. Even the self-confessed connoisseurs only got around 3/10!!
Visiting almost ay region in France, except the NW, offers opportunities to visit local family-run vineyards and wine-tastings, served with local cheeses and charcuterie. While I drink a veriety of wines I would like to propose three of my favorites.
Fiumicicoli – a pale rose-petal colored rosé from the Corsican Sartène region
Cabernet d’Anjou – for a sweeter rosé, Loire region
Gigondas – a robust Cote du Rhone red
Sauvignon Blanc – a popular white from Bordeaux