At Majestic, we are proud to be champions of French wine, and our wide range of wines across all prices dwarfs the uninspiring selection you'll find in your local supermarket.
A long history of wine production has led to a sometimes confusing system of wine classification. Any member of Majestic staff will be only too happy to help you navigate this eclectic world, but a (very) brief overview of the system goes something like this:
Vin de Table is the lowest ranking wine and must adhere to only the most basic of regulation. Rarely will you find this wine in the UK.
Vin de Pays wines have to adhere to stricter regulation, specific to the region of origin. This will determine the grapes that are permitted, along with other factors. There are excellent wines here at great prices. Many staff favourites fall into this category and Majestic has always been rightly proud of the range of great Vins de Pays we offer.
Appellation d'Origine Controlée (AC) applies to all of the major wine regions of France. The idea is that a wine is a product of place rather than grape. Wine from any AC will be labelled after its place of origin rather than the grape(s) used. All the wines are tasted by local committees to ensure they conform to the local quality and style standards.
As an inevitably inadequate introduction to what is a massive subject, here is a zigzag tour, from north to south, of the major wine regions of France – there's much more detail if you follow the links!
Champagne, which produces the most wonderful sparkling wines, lies about as far north as grapes will ripen. Anyone taking the production of sparkling wine seriously in the New World looks to Champagne for inspiration. Also in the north-east are the unique vineyards of Alsace where aromatic white wine is at its finest.
Moving further south and over to the Western half of the country lie the sprawling vineyards of the Loire Valley. Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are the class acts here. The fresh, bright New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs owe a good deal of thanks to the winemakers of the Loire.
Back to the east of the country lies Burgundy. Home of Chardonnay, this really is white wine at its best and no Chardonnay from anywhere else in the world can quite match the finest white Burgundy. The reds, from Pinot Noir (or Gamay in Beaujolais), can be breathtaking too. Probably the most complicated of all wine regions to understand, most vineyards are small, may have several owners each farming just a few rows of vines, and may produce wines of wildly differing quality.
Another prized region as we return to the west is, of course, Bordeaux. Unique terroir (the combination of climate and soil) produces outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as many dry and sweet white wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
In the far south is the Rhône Valley, the home of Syrah (or Shiraz as it's also known) and Grenache and such well known wines as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côte-Rôtie. Occupying huge tracts of land from the Rhône all the way to the Spanish border, is Languedoc-Roussillon. Source of the ubiquitous Vin de Pays d'Oc, it is also the home to many young quality-conscious winemakers keen to make their mark. There are also a good number of interesting and eclectic wines from South-West France.
There's simply too much to include here – to find out more, click on the links to each region. The wines are great and there's something for everyone – try for yourself in the unlikely event you're not already a huge fan. If you are, try them all again from the beginning - they're just as good the second time around!