The sweetness beyond the Alps: the sweet French wines
France can be considered the crib of the today’s oenology, where the art of making wine is taken as an example all over the world. This country, in fact, has the credit to have recognized the importance to produce high-quality wines and the French style is recognized by many wine makers, depending on the type of wine that you want to obtain. Bordeaux, Bourgogne and Rhone Valley are famous for red wines; Bourgogne, Loire Valley and Alsace for their white wines; Champagne for sparkling wines.
A little history
France boasts an ancient oenological tradition. The first proofs of the cultivation of the vines can be dated back, in fact, at 600 BC, the year of the foundation of the today’s Marseille and the introduction of the vine. During the romans, at the end of the second century BC, the vine cultivation was affected by a great push. In the Rhone Valley, the Romans founded Narbo, the today’s Narbonne, city that in these times was important for the production and quality of the French wines.
In the 6th century the cultivation of the vine was spread in the whole French territory, mainly thanks to the work of the monks that used to cultivate the vine in their monasteries. Today, the surface cultivated with vine is spread in almost all the national territory and the production areas when the quality is higher are around ten.
Sweet French wines: the area of Languedoc – Roussillon
France offers a wide choice of wines for desserts, produced mainly with a vine variety called Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. The Languedoc – Roussillon is among the most famous areas: here in fact the production of French sweet wines is pretty spread. These wines belong to the family of fortified wines, as during the process of fermentation can be added alcohol to preserve the sugar of the wines. Among the most famous sweet wines of Languedoc – Roussillon we can find the one produced from Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains: Muscat de Rivesaltes, Muscat de Lunel, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Mireval and Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois. Other famous wines are Banyuls and Maury, both produced with grapes Grenache Noir and the Rivesaltes, generally produced with grapes Grenache Noir, Maccabeu, Malvoisie and Muscat Blanc.
French sweet wines: Sauternes and Barsac
The most famous French sweet wines come from the areas of Sauternes and Barsac, located in the geographical area of Bordeaux. It seems that in the last centuries, the winery Chateau d’Yquem has suffered possible attacks of moulds, the Botrytis cinerea, that, instead of ruining the wine, made it sweet and alcoholic. People decided, thus to use the grapes with the “noble mould” to obtain an extraordinary wine. The used wines are Semignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. The result is very low: a vine produces no more than a glass of wine. This wine is excellent to pair savoury cheeses.
Producers of the municipality of Barsac can use the denomination Barsac, although the wines produced have the same characteristics of the Sauternes. We are talking about a niche product difficult to find and pretty expensive.
Further north, we find Cadillac, other famous area for the production of French wines in Bordeaux and in the eastern part of Bordeaux there is the region of Bergerac, not that famous but they produce wines from grapes Sèmillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.