Even if you’re not in Paris to celebrate Bastille Day, you can have your own Fête de la Bastille wherever you may be, with some great French wines! In France, Bastille Day is a national holiday to celebrate the storming of the Bastille – a medieval fortress-prison in Paris, symbolic of the harsh rule of the monarchy. Bastille Day represents the eventual fall of the monarchy and forming of a republic that is celebrated each year by the French with parades, military demonstrations, fireworks and beaucoup parties with wine bien sûr!
Here are some of my favorite French wines that I especially enjoy in the summer and are perfect for serving at your own Fête de la Bastille this year.
There’s no better way to make any occasion special than drinking some bubbly – especially from the Champagne region. You’ll have to spend a little extra for actual Champagne versus sparkling wine. Moët et Chandon, Piper Heidsick, Pommery and of course Dom Perignon are some of the more recognized Champagnes, but don’t be afraid to try some of the other Champagne houses you haven’t heard of before. Champagnes are priced based on their vineyard class (Grand Cru, Premier Cru, AOC), vintage versus nonvintage and what the market dictates so you can find them at different price points for your budget. Champagne is worth the splurge, but if you don’t want to pop for it, you can find some really great sparkling wines also from France for under $20 – or you can get one of those great little 4-packs with a split (175 mL bottle) of Piper or Pommery on the cheap if it’s a party for one or two.
I’m particularly fond of wines from Alsace as drinking them connects me with my long-distance Alsatian family roots. Some of the best Rieslings and Gewürztraminer come from Alsace. These are highly aromatic flower-scented wines with good structure that are drier than German-style wines of the same grape. If you can, try a Pinot Blanc from Alsace. My Alsatian friend and Chef Catherine introduced me to a Pinot Blanc from France at a dinner that I will never forget. Clean and crisp with peachy aromas, the Pinot Blanc has more citrus notes versus the honey flavors of a Gewürztraminer and is less dry than a Riesling.
Rosé may be considered the ultimate ‘chick’ wine but I really try to get dudes to try them too. Rosés are not the cloying and overly sweet wine that most people assume when they think of the pink stuff. Rosés can actually be quite complex, having summer fruit, strawberry and cherry flavors, with a dry, crisp style. This is a happy wine that’s refreshing and perfect to drink in the summer on its own or with barbecue or lighter cuisine. The Southern Rhône and Provence areas in France have a reputation for making some of the best Rosé wines. What I love most about this wine is that you can find some incredibly affordable and delicious Rosés from Côtes du Rhône, Cahors, Provence, Côtes du Roussillon, and Nîmes well under $20 and even less than $10 a bottle. One of my favorites from Southern Rhône is Château L’Ermitage. Even if you’re not celebrating Bastille Day, pick up several bottles of Rosé to have on hand during the summer. (Read more about Rosé in my article and review on Château L’Ermitage Rosé.)
Napoleon once fittingly said (in French of course), “wine is inspiring and adds greatly to the joy of living,” and enjoying some great French wine is one of the best ways I can think of to celebrate joie de vivre at your next summer fête.
Drop us a line below and let us know what your favorite french summer wines are!
Heidi is senior editor at Wineopolis Press, and author of the Wineopolis® Wine-travel Guidebook series. She is the Certified Wine Expert® Program Director for Bartenders Association Internationale and editor of the latest edition of How to Test and Improve Your Wine Judging Ability. Heidi is a member of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, the Society of Wine Educators and Ladies Who Launch.