French White Wine – Take Our Tour

Harry Lambourne
23rd August 2022

French White Wine Regions

Many will cite France as the greatest of the old-world European wine regions and French wine is found on menus and shop shelves across the globe. So, with summer in full flow we thought it’d be good to take you on a whistle-stop tour of some wonderful French white wine.

We’ll pick some of the top regions across France and pick a grape or two that we think you should keep an eye out for when you’re picking out a bottle. We’ll explore a myriad of styles and flavours to ensure that whoever you are, you’ll find a French white wine you love!

The regions we will be reviewing are; Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, the Loire Valley, Alsace and Languedoc-Roussillon. Each region will provide an exciting new taste and also an insight into the methods of production and characteristics of terroir that feeds into making your favourite French white wine taste the way that it does.

So, without further ado, let’s jump into the world of French white wine.

French Wine Map
Map for our Tour of French White Wine

Bordeaux WhITE Wine

Now, Bordeaux seems a good place to begin as it is home to so many of the most prestigious names in wine. Bordeaux is home to a number of great French white wines, across some of the top and most revered appellations in the world. Sauvignon Blanc is a particularly desirable grape variety, within Bordeaux. The Pessac-Leognan appellation is home to some of the best white wines in the world, so unsurprisingly they often come with an eye-watering price tag, even in the often expensive world of French white wine.

Instead though, we will look at Sémillon. Sémillon is a rich white wine. It often possesses notes of honey, peaches and lemon. It also can come in both oaked and unoaked varieties. The oaked variations are often particularly rich and syrupy. In this respect Sémillon is not dissimilar to Chardonnay, which we will look at in the Burgundy section.

However, where Bordeaux Sémillon distinguishes itself is through the dessert wine of Sauternes. Sauternes is a small wine region within Bordeaux, where this nectar is produced. In terms of tasting notes, the rich complexity that Sautérnes can offer is the other side of why it is so desired. Sémillon has a rich ageing potential. Often aged in oak, vanilla and smoke aromas will come through in droves. Then, the Sautérnes which are left to age in the bottle itself can develop further into rich flavours of marmalade, honey, caramel, and dried fruit – just to name a few! While this is not technically a French ‘white wine’, it goes to further show the power of Sémillon within the Bordeaux region.

Burgundy WHITE Wine

Burgundy, (or Bourgogne), is most well known for Chardonnay. Indeed, Burgundy is the ancestral home of Chardonnay, so this will be our French white wine of focus. However, Burgundy Chardonnay is not a homogeneous animal. You can easily split Burgundy Chardonnay into two clear groups. Once more, that is oaked and unoaked.

The wines of Chablis and Máconnais are unoaked Burgundy Chardonnay. Therefore, these wines tend to be more fruit-forward. You can expect minerality, alongside flavours of apples, lemon, peach and melon.

This is in contrast to the oaked wines of appellations like Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. These wines are particularly sought after. In general oaked Chardonnay, even from the lesser known appellations, will be more expensive. This can largely be attributed to the fact that ageing wine in oak barrels, compared to inert tanks, is a more expensive process. In terms of taste, you can expect a more rich and creamy taste to oaked Chardonnay. Notes of vanilla and honey will make themselves known.

It’s a fun exercise to try these wines side by side. It really gives you an appreciation of how the ageing process can impact the final product. One grape, two very different French white wines.

Rhone Valley White Wine

Next on our list is French white wine from the Rhône Valley. Now, red wine is often what is most associated with the Rhône Valley. For example, Côtes du Rhône is sometimes even assumed to be a red wine, but within this appellation a great deal of excellent white Côtes du Rhône is produced. While you can find excellent white wine in the Northern Rhône, especially in the form of Viognier from the Condrieu appellation, Côtes du Rhône will be our focus.

Côtes du Rhône wines, both red and white, have similarities. This is particularly evident in their use of blending. Single varietal Côtes du Rhône wines aren’t all that common. Red will utilise grapes like Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Whereas whites use Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.

Through blending, greater complexity and diversity of flavours can be achieved in the French white wines from this region. Côtes du Rhône white wines are often bolder, with some discernible body. Then, they hold rich stone and citrus fruit flavours. Peaches, nectarines, apricots and lemons are often notable flavours. However, you can often see some tropical fruit notes of pineapple and passionfruit. A real treat which is worth seeking out.

Loire Valley WHITE Wine

Loire River at Sunset
The Loire Valley – Home of Chenin Blanc French White Wine

Let’s move to the Loire Valley. Here, is a region where French white wine does rule the roost. Again, Sauvignon Blanc has found a great deal of acclaim within this region. Appellations such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are both extremely acclaimed wine regions, where Sauvignon Blanc is grown. Then, in the Western portion of the Loire Valley you also have Muscadet. Muscadet is deeply acidic, dry and saline. In many respects this is the ultimate fresh seafood wine.

Yet, we want to focus on Chenin Blanc. The appeal of Chenin Blanc is in the versatility of this grape. It makes wonderfully enticing dry white wines, decadent dessert wines and even a full range of sparkling wines. Indeed, all of these can be found within the Loire Valley.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth look for Côteaux-Layon and Quarts de Chaume in the Middle Loire region. Then, Crémant de Loire is often heavily composed of Chenin Blanc. These are great examples of traditional method French sparkling wine at a really competitive price point.

Our pick though is the dry to off-dry found in the Loire Valley. Particularly off-dry. The early harvesting time of the Loire Valley and late ripening of Chenin Blanc means that these French white wines normally fall into this sweet spot. A hint of residual sugar brings out flavours of passion fruit, pineapple and honey while maintaining an acidic bite of lemon and lime.

Alsace WHITE Wine

Now, it’s time for Alsace. Alsace, like the Loire Valley, is a place where French white wine takes centre stage. There is a real rich variety to the white grape varieties which are found within this region. Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer are all found in Alsace. They are also often of exceptional quality, above all in the Grand Cru appellations.

The history of the geography of Alsace is also interesting. Here, will be the ‘least French’, of all the French white wine. The region changed hands, between Germany and France, four times over a 75 year period at the turn of the 20th century. This is why our pick for an Alsace French white wine is Riesling.

If you see a French Riesling it will almost without a doubt be from Alsace. An inherently Germanic grape in a historically Germanic region. Alsace Riesling has its own character though. Dry and balanced, but acidic. Alsace Riesling can display strong notes of green apples, pears, lemons, apricots, nectarine and subtle floral aromas.

LAnguedoc-Roussillon WHITE Wine

Last, but not least, is Languedoc-Roussillon. The Languedoc area is interesting. Not only due to the incredibly disparate styles and grape varieties which can be found, but also due to the tremendous value that can be found. High quality wines often don’t exhibit the high price-tags of some of the more globally recognised French white wine regions.

In terms of gaining acclaim for a competitive price point, Picpoul is a perfect example. Picpoul de Pinet is a small coastal area of the Languedoc region, occupying just 3000 of 740,300 acres. Although, it has begun to find an ever-increased presence on the UK wine market. This is our French white wine of choice from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Thau Lagoon
Thau Lagoon – Night-time Warmer of Picpoul de Pinet

The name translates to ‘stings the lip’, which is a reference to the wine’s trademark acidity. Beyond that it is relatively dry and particularly light. It also possesses an incredibly refreshing nature, with distinct herbaceous and mineral elements to it. The saline minerality is undoubtedly a consequence of being a ‘marine’ vineyard.

Outside of this famous white wine, don’t forget about the even more famous Provencal style of dry rose wine.

That concludes our whistle-stop tour of the world of French white wine. Now, there are many more regions and grape varieties that could deserve a mention but we think that this is a great place to start.

Be sure to take a look at our collection of French white wine. We’re sure with the guidance above, you’re sure to find a French white wine to fit your needs!

Browse the full range of French white wine here.

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If you’d simply just like to learn more about wine from the comfort of your own home, be sure to check out our online blog and sign up to our mailing list. We’re always looking to teach people about different regions, grape varieties and producers. Beyond that, you can expect to find a whole host of playlists, cocktail cards and recipe cards packed full of wine pairing ideas. There might even be some special offers along the way so make sure that you don’t miss out!

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