Last July, I visited these five wine producers in person, and their wines were absolutely delicious. With the Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) now in full swing – theme country: France, global focus: Bubbly – you can sip and sample before buying, and perhaps even head to France yourself. North to South, here is a wine tour of France in Vancouver.
*All the wines listed are being poured at the International Festival tastings Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and Saturday afternoon, February 27 to March 1, 2014.
A hundred and fifty kilometres east of Paris, Champagne centres around the towns of Reims and Epernay with the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vineyards radiating out west and south from Montagne de Reims. Coming from Vancouver Mount Reims seems more like a hill than a mountain. But their sparkling wines are larger than life, as are the vineyards where you can actually see the chalky white soils that give Champagne its characteristic flavour – even when compared to sparkling wines made in the same method but in other regions of France and beyond.
It is hard not to love all champagnes by Lanson. Their style is fruity and powerful with crisp, refreshing acidity made predominantly with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Or, as the Chef de Cave likes to say Fraicheur, Puissance, Fruité. In fact, I loved each of their wines poured at last year’s wine festival that I made sure it was on my list of wineries to visit while in Champagne. Careful. You may also be inspired to visit in person after trying them. If you do, the champagne house offers must-do tours through seven kilometres of underground caves and 20 million bottles stored there.
Lanson Black Label Brut NV (Non-Vintage)
Lanson Rose NV
Lanson Extra Age Brut NV
Lanson Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay only)
This champagne house was not originally on my list of must-visits, but boy, was I glad that it ended up on my itinerary. Their wines are marked by finesse and elegance, and are absolutely divine. My favourite among the non-vintage champagnes is the Prélude Grand Crus, which as its name indicates, is made of grapes from their Grand Cru vineyards (best quality in Champagne). Try them all, including their vintage offering to taste the difference between a non-vintage champagne and a vintage champagne.
Taittinger Brut Reserve NV
Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus NV
Taittinger Prestige Rose NV
Taittinger Brut Vintage 2005
Taittinger Nocturne Rose Disco
Let’s keep it simple, and focus on the wines. Burgundy produces wines from two grape varieties: Pinot Noir for the reds and Chardonnay for the whites.
Louis Latour is also the owner of several wineries under different labels. Their Henry Fessy Julienas is a tasty example of Cru Beaujolais (gamay noir) from vineyards in Beaujolais between Burgundy and the Rhône. Make sure you also treat yourself to the Corton Charlemagne (white) and the Corton Grancey (red) they’ll be pouring because they are not cheap. It’s a great opportunity to sample before you splurge at the on-site liquor store or elsewhere when you want fine Burgundy.
Henry Fessy Julienas 2011
Simonnet Febvre Chablis NV
Chateau Corton Grancey
Chateau Corton Charlemagne
Now we are officially in the south of France. Think Syrah and Viognier in the northern Rhône, and Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah, Roussane, Bourboulenc and Picpoul in the south.
Maison Delas Freres, Rhone Valley (North)
Delas is a premier wine producer with some of the best wine producing vineyards in the northern Rhone Valley. They are pouring wines from four different and distinct vineyard areas of Cornas, Crozes Hermitage, Ventoux and Côtes du Rhone in corresponding quality – better to not as better. Their best grapes are from Hermitage (and fetch corresponding prices), but I think you’ll be plenty happy with these.
St Esprit Côtes Du Rhône 2012
Domaine Des Grands Chemins Crozes Hermitage 2010
Cornas Chante Perdrix 2009
Famille Perrin Chateau Beaucastel, Rhone Valley (South)
No visit to the south of France is a visit without seeing Châteauneuf du Pape, where the current French appellation system originated. The actual chateau, after which the town is named, is no longer neuf or new, nor is there much of it remaining. But the restaurant right beside is spectacular and so are their wines. You may know this region for their full-bodied, age-worthy reds, but wine producers also make a white Chateauneuf du Pape, which I like to sip with roast chicken or all on its own.
Famille Perrin Chateau Beaucastel is world renowned for their Chateauneuf du Pape wines, but they also make some beautiful wines from the Cotes du Rhone Villages and Gigondas appellations. Most definitely worth a visit at the wine festival and in person.
Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne Peyre Blanche 2011
Gigondas La Gille
Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2012
Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2011
A sumptuous wine journey through France
North to South, spitting is crucial when you want to taste as many wines as possible at a wine festival as large as this one in Vancouver. But these are wines, I must be honest, that you won’t want to spit.