What is a French White Wine?
French white wines are one of the most sought-after wines available on the planet. The unique taste and aroma of these wines are inimitable. The color of the white wine is not precisely white. It is more yellow than white. The vinification process of white wine is more delicate than red wine vinification.
The History of French Wine – An overview
Wine has been an integral part of French culture for many centuries. France is a well-known wine manufacturer in the world. You can come across numerous wine-growing regions in France. Top-quality French wines are named after the region they come from. Millions of people are ardent fans of the taste and quality of French wines.
The winemaking practice started in France with the colonization of Sothern Gaul by the Greek settlers in the 6th century BC. Later in 300 BC, the Romans planted vines in leading wine regions across the country. The wine industry grew from strength to strength until the 19th century.
The alarming spread of mildew and Phylloxera, two World Wars, and the European economic downturn affected the manufacturing industry adversely. During the 20th century, several steps were taken to revive the industry. The AOC (appellation origin controlee) also known as Controlled Designation of Origin, came into existence in 1935 to safeguard the French interests.
The AOC defined geographical wine regions and their unique characteristics to prevent unethical practices in winemaking. Another vital focus area of this establishment was to maintain the quality of the French wine. The French winemakers also made huge investments to boost industry growth. These initiatives and steps played the most prominent role in creating the modern French wine industry.
How is French White Wine Made?
Two methods are employed to make French white wines. Let us discuss these two winemaking processes to learn more about French white wines.
The first method uses white grape to make wine. The white grapes refer to golden yellow, pinkish-yellow, greenish-yellow, or green grapes. That is to say, this method ferments only the white grape juice to make white wine.
You can associate more complexity with the second method. It utilizes the juice of red grape variety after removing the skin and pips. Winemakers have to be extremely vigilant to get rid of all coloring substances available on the grapes.
The first method is the most popular white winemaking process available in France. It is a lot easier and simpler process compared to the second one.
Time is a Critical Factor
When the grapes reach the cellar, they are crushed to store juice in containers. The juice (free-run must) should be allowed to settle in containers. Air contact can make white winemaking problematic. It oxidizes or becomes colored to ruin your process. To avoid this situation, makers add the must from pressing to the free-run must.
When you keep the juice in the container for 6 to 12 hours, the grape particles and impurities will float on the surface of must. With the help of the raking process, these impurities are eliminated to prepare clarified juice. For the fermentation process, you must pour this juice into a tank.
The temperature must be set around 65 Degree Fahrenheit. It is necessary to cool the must at regular intervals to optimize the performance of the yeast. Generally speaking, the fermentation lasts 2 to 3 weeks.
The winemaker puts the wine in a cask after the fermentation process. Then, the raking process is done to complete fermentation. The next step is the bottling process of the white wine. Most people opt for oak casks to ensure adequate tannin. You must understand that tannin is an inevitable element for wine aging. However, it may not be sufficient for the white wine. So, the shelf life of white wine is lower than that of red wine.
Learn about Most Popular French White Wines
Let us study various styles of French white wines to get a clear idea about the characteristics of each category.
Chardonnay, native to Burgundy is one of the famous white wines in France. You can find both oaked and unoaked versions in this part of the world. The traditional oaked wine is dry and full-bodied with flavors of hazelnut, vanilla, lemon curd, and yellow apple with subtle notes of creme fraiche and mushroom. This Chardonnay wine is a perfect option to pair with creamy sauces, pasta, seafood, chicken, and pork.
You can also find unoaked wines in Burgundy. These wines are available in Chablis, Burgundy. They are dry and light-bodied versions that offer flavors of star fruit, lemon, and lime with subtle notes of chalk and spring blossoms. The Chablis version is rich in minerals and makes an excellent combination with white fish, chicken, and creamy sauces.
The Semillon white grape is native to Bordeaux, France. Winemakers combine Semillon grape with a little Sauvignon Blanc grape to make this type of wine. You can find two different types of Semillon wine, dry and sweet styles.
The Semillon dry white wine is a light-bodied one with honeysuckle flowers, gooseberry, grass, grapefruit, and lemon flavors. The sweet version offers flavors of citrus zest, honey, ginger, and apricot with notes of marmalade and jasmine. You can use Semillon wines with goat cheese, turkey, ham, pork, duck, and chicken.
Grown in the northern Rhone region, Viognier white grape is a perfect choice to make delicious wines. You can find this vine tree growing with Syrah. The taste of this wine ranges from dry to off-dry with a little bit of sweetness. It offers flavors of almond, pineapple, rose water, and tangerine with subtle notes of beeswax, white pepper, and anise.
Generally speaking, the Sauvignon Blanc is a light/medium-bodied, dry white wine. You can find Sauvignon Blanc grape in the regions, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. If you want to find an oaked style of this wine, you must visit the Pessac Leognan area.
The flavor profile of this wine includes white peach, grapefruit, honeydew lemon, green pear, and grass with subtle notes of butter or slate-like minerals. The Sauvignon Blanc wine can be paired with desserts, cheese, pasta, fish, white meat, and shellfish.
Melon de Bourgogne or Muscadet
The Melon de Bourgogne or Muscadet wine belongs to the Loire Valley region. It is a lean, dry, and light-bodied wine with a light character. The Melon de Bourgogne wine grape offers flavors of brine, seashell, green mango, quince, and lime with notes of yeast and lager.
It is hard to find a better alternative than Muscadet wine to an ice-cold beer. The best foods that make a perfect combination with the Melon de Bourgogne wine include scallops, crab, lobster, shrimp, and oysters.
You can find two types of Muscat Blanc wines. The French wine produced in the Languedoc-Roussillon region is known as Muscat de Rivesaltes. The production of the second version, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise occurs in the Rhone Valley.
The Muscat de Rivesaltes wine is a light-bodied one. If you want a richer and denser vine version of Muscat Blanc, you can choose Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. Both these wines have flavors of honeysuckle, perfume, peach, pink lady apple, and mandarin orange with notes of vanilla bean and nutmeg. You can pair Muscat Blanc with chocolate spicy cuisine, cheese, nuts, and dried fruits.
Three different types of wines are produced using the Chenin Blanc grape. The dry style Chenin Blanc wine refers to a light-bodied one with flavors of citrus blossoms, green pear, chamomile, and lemon with notes of salted butter. It also comes with aromas of lime, honeysuckle, and white peach.
The sweet style Chenin Blanc version is a medium/full-bodied wine with flavors of ginger, marzipan, honey, orange blossom, apricot, and peach. The third category, the sparkling style of Chenin Blanc is a dry wine that comes with flavors of lemon peel, white peach, and citrus blossom. It also offers subtle notes of yeast and cream.
Dry, sweet, and sparkling Chenin Blanc wines can be used with desserts, cheese, creamy chicken dishes, rich fish, and salads.
It is one of the three white wines found in the Alsace region of France. Gewurztraminer is a pink-colored grape with a medium sweet taste and subtle oiliness. The flavor profile contains cinnamon, potpourri, tangerine, rose, and lychee with notes of incense smoke and tarragon.
The alcohol content in Gewurztraminer is higher than most other wines. The acidity level of this wine is very low. The best food pairings include blue cheese, sweet vegetables, Indian cuisine, duck, trout, and salmon.
Riesling is also a popular white wine found in the Alsace region of France. This dry-style wine comes with flavors of pink grapefruit, citrus zest, green apple, and lime. You can also enjoy subtle notes of white pepper and Thai sweet basil.
Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
This wine also belongs to the Alsace region of France. It is the sweetest of all wines found in this area. The winemakers consider the Pinot Gris grape as a noble one. It offers flavors of ruby-red grapefruit, baked apple, honey, apricot, and peach with subtle notes of smoke and orange zest.
The distinct aroma and flavor make Pinot Gris a unique French white wine. This wine makes a perfect combination with cheese such as Reverie, Ridgeline, and Ticklemore.
Winemaking is a habit and pride for French people. Further, suitable soil and climate make France an ideal wine-making destination. If you want to taste some of the finest white wines, you can choose French white wines. The inimitable flavor and aroma of French white wines always take your taste buds on an exciting culinary adventure.