White wines of southern France can hold their own

White white wine lovers are still trying to figure out the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio and vacillating over whether to buy Vinho Verde or Verdejo, French winemakers continue to make amazingly tasty and food-friendly white wines from their traditional grapes.

Not necessarily the first choice when looking for white wines – the reds get much more attention, not just in Châteauneuf-du-Pape but throughout the Côtes du Rhône and west across the Languedoc to the Spanish border – there are some excellent and affordable whites being grown and made in the south of France.

The Grand Prébois is actually François Perrin’s house on the Route de Jonquières in Orange just a few kilometers away from Beaucastel. Le Grand Prebois Blanc (144949) $9.55 teases with the subtle honeyed apple pie and melon flavours that meld into a versatile dry white.

Muscadet Sèvre et Maine covers twenty-three communes to the southeast of Nantes and is named after the two rivers that cross the vineyards – the Petite Maine and the Sèvre Nantaise.  Uniquely dry whites imbued with restrained fruit characters and a chalky and gravel minerality are the speciality of the region.

Marked down from $18.00 Les Vergers Muscadet Sevre et Maine (174615) $13.65 has a subtle bouquet of orange zest, pear and strong minerality.

A light spritzy sparkle on the palate, makes way for delicate flavours of citrus and pear. An elegant balance between mineral character and floral freshness.

The Languedoc region of southwest France is a hot bed of wine value.  The wines of Parnasse are named after the mountain grass that flowers above the vineyards each spring, marking the beginning of a long, languid summer.

From grapes grown in Beziers, Herault and the Aude Valley   Parnasse Sauvignon Blanc (90464) $14.25 is fresh, pure and very aromatic with varietal citrus fruit, floral and grassy aromas. The palate offers a zesty burst of vibrant tropical and citrus fruit flavours wrapped in soft mineral acidity.

The grapes for Domaine de Vedilhan Viognier are grown near the village of Moussan, about ten kilometres inland from Narbonne. The vineyard is surrounded by a stream, which not only has a cooling influence on the site but provides natural irrigation.

Domaine de Vedilhan Viognier (175026) $14.85 is a dry white wine that leaves a sweet impression in the mouth from its lush the peach and apricot flavors. There’s a subtle nuttiness, here, and the finish is quite refreshing with intriguing notes of almond and hazelnut.

Touraine is a wine district at the heart of France’s Loire Valley wine region. Throughout Touraine, the better vineyard sites are those with free-draining soils rich in tuffeau – the chalky, calcareous rock for which this part of the Loire Valley is famous.

Jean-Pierre and Christophe Davault, fifth and sixth generation wine makers, respectively, fashion a bright and zingy Sauvignon Blanc in Touraine. Domaine de la Chaise Touraine Sauvignon (870840) $19.40 sizzles with aromas and flavours of grapefruit.

A fresh, white mineral note persists on the palate and in the finish. Perfect for any type of fish or shellfish, this is a fabulous palate refresher!

Jongieux is a named cru of the Vin de Savoie appellation nestled between the mountains of the Dent du Chat and the Rhône, tucked up against the Swiss bordser. It is named for the village of Jongieux, but the permitted vineyard zone covers five different communes, making it the largest of the Vin de Savoie crus.

Made entirely from the little known  and  high-yielding Jacquère wine grape grown on clay and limestone soils, Perret Jongieux Perle d’Agrumes (41921) $19.75 offers aromas of lemon and tart grapefruit over green apple and almond flavours. Bright and sassy on first sip, it shows intriguing minerality as it warms in the glass.

The farthest flung of the regions that comprise Burgundy, Chablis is a famous wine-producing town in northern-central France.

It produces light, dry white wines famed for their minerality and crisp acidity. Most Chablis wines are produced exclusively from Chardonnay.

Using traditional, environmentally friendly, organic practices Garnier & Fils Chablis (663146) $31.55 comes from grapes harvested later than most, fermented with natural yeast and aged in very large barrels. This is a classic, Old World chardonnay with rich pear, bright yellow plum, lemon rind and an almost saline chalky minerality.


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