The 2012 F&W Wine Guide, by the editors of F&W and Mary Burnham, highlights 500 of the world's great producers. Here, for our special France issue, we offer eight picks from that epicenter of fine wine, plus French-inspired recipes, importers and shops.
In this article:
How to Buy the 2012 Wine Guide
To order the 2012 Wine Guide ($12.95), go to foodandwine.com/books.
F&W Wine Guide: Outstanding French Producers
© CEPHAS - Mick Rock
Many Alsace producers have switched to making sweeter wines, but Trimbach stays true to the region's classic, dry, mineral-rich style. Twelfth-generation vintner Pierre Trimbach crafts pure, bracingly dry whites from all of the traditional Alsace varieties. The most famous bottling is the Clos Ste. Hune Riesling; cuvées such as the Frédéric Emile offer nearly as much complexity and pleasure at more approachable prices.
© Petrina Tinslay
Great Pairings: Alsace Wines & Garlic Confit (left)
To make garlic confit ("preserved" in French), cloves are cooked in olive oil until they become soft and silky delicious spread on bread or roasted with chicken.
2007 Trimbach Pinot Blanc ($17) The addition of some Auxerrois contributes a bit of fruitiness to this racy, citrusy Pinot Blanc.
2007 Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris ($17) The rich, slightly smoky character of this full-bodied white is lifted by crisp, lively acidity.
2004 Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling ($75) Trimbach's top cuvées are aged before release until they reach their ideal window for drinking. This spicy, beautifully made Riesling comes from the estate's top vineyards.
© CEPHAS - Mick Rock
Paul Jaboulet aÎné
Jaboulet is arguably the most important Rhône wine house of the past century. Its La Chapelle Hermitage set a world-class standard, and its basic cuvées, such as Parallèle 45, are seemingly ubiquitous. After an unstable period in the early 2000s, Jaboulet has rebounded under Denis Dubourdieu's direction and the ownership of the Frey family, who bought the winery in 2006.
2009 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Domaine Mule Blanche/Crozes-Hermitage ($42) This 50-50 Roussanne-and-Marsanne blend gets its name from an era when mules were used to plow the vineyard.
© Petrina Tinslay
Château de Saint Cosme
Rhône winemaker Louis Barruol's family acquired this ancient Gigondas estate in 1490. Château de Saint Cosme is known for its definitive estate reds, as well as the supremely well-crafted lineup of wines Barruol makes from purchased grapes under the Saint Cosme and Little James' Basket Press labels. Barruol has farmed organically since the 1970s.
Great Pairing: Rhône Reds & Herbed Lamb (left)
Hardy herbs like thyme and rosemary grow wild in southern France. Dried with salt and rubbed onto lamb, they're a natural match for Jaboulet's Rhône Valley reds.
2010 Little James' Basket Press/Vin de Pays d'Oc ($13) This unusual white blend of lush, tropical Viognier and zesty Sauvignon Blanc is both widely available and compellingly affordable.
2009 Château de Saint Cosme/Gigondas ($35) A freak spring hailstorm in 2009 reduced yields substantially in Gigondas, but that actually helped intensify this dense, full-bodied yet gracefully polished red.
© CEPHAS - Mick Rock
ChÂteau Pape Clément
This Pessac-Léognan estate, on Bordeaux's Left Bank, has been turning out fine wine since 1305, when its owner was Pope Clément V (hence its name). Pape Clément's modern reputation can be traced to the 1950s and the involvement of Émile Peynaud, one of France's best winemakers. Today, co-owner Bernard Magrez and viticultural consultant Michel Rolland are the stewards of its benchmark red and white wines.
2007 Château Pape Clément Grand Cru Classé de Graves/Pessac-Léognan ($150) Smoky stone, leather, dark fruit: all the elements of classic Pessac-Léognan.
2008 Château Pape Clément Grand Cru de Graves/Pessac-Léognan Blanc ($220) Lovely peach-and-melon fruit reveals the strength of the 2008 vintage for Bordeaux whites.
Alain Dominique Perrin acquired this estate in the southwestern region of Cahors in 1980 and hired Michel Rolland to mastermind the wines. His Malbec-based reds have turned Lagrézette into Cahors's leading winery. The top cuvée is the extremely pricey Le Pigeonnier; a range of wines made from bought grapes offers a more affordable taste of Lagrézette's style.
2003 Château Lagrézette Cuvée Dame Honneur Malbec/Cahors ($70) Voluptuous blackberry, spice and mineral tones are up front in this reserve cuvée made from older vines.
Jean-Marc Brocard began with a few acres of vines in the 1970s. Today he makes a range of terrific, unoaked wines from nearly 450 acres of vineyards throughout Chablis and beyond. His son Julien is converting the estate to biodynamic farming; look for ladybugs or moons on the labels of wines from "green" sites.
2009 Jean-Marc Brocard Sauvignon/ St-Bris ($19) Made with grapes from the only zone in Burgundy that allows Sauvignon Blanc, this is zippy and floral-scented.
2008 Jean-Marc Brocard En Sol Kimméridgien Chardonnay/Bourgogne Blanc ($23) This bright, citrusy bottling has the hallmark minerality that's imparted by Burgundy's chalky clay soils.
The leading estate in the Provençal region of Bandol, Domaine Tempier makes some of the world's finest Mourvèdre-based reds. But its best-known wine is its dry rosé, a delicious wine that proves pink wines can be complex. Owned for generations by the Péyraud family, the estate has gained momentum in recent years under winemaker Daniel Ravier, who has improved the single-vineyard cuvées.
2008 Domaine Tempier La Tourtine/Bandol ($59) This lush, spicy red uses fruit from a single 12-acre vineyard known for producing grapes with powerful tannins.
Commanderie de la Bargemone
Fabulous dry rosé wines are the hallmark of this Provençal winery. Founded by the Knights Templar in the 1200s, the estate was purchased by Christian and Marina Garin in 2006. Key to Bargemone's success has been its focus on estate-grown fruit: All its wines, including newer blends such as Cuvée Marina, come from Garin vineyards.
2010 Commanderie de la Bargemone/Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence ($17) A great candidate for a house rosé, with melon, berry and orange-zest notes.
2010 Commanderie de la Bargemone Cuvée Marina/Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence ($22) Still impressively juicy and fresh, this rosé gets its weightier flavors from an unusual blend of Cabernet and Syrah.
F&W Wine Guide: 3 New U.S. Importers of French Wine
Selection Massale This micro-importer based in San Leandro, California, focuses on small-production, traditionally made wines. selectionmassale.com.
Zev Rovine Selections Brooklyn, New Yorkbased Zev Rovine has recently discovered terrific Beaujolais crus from Jean-Paul Dubost. zrswines.com.
Scott Paul Wines This Oregon-based Burgundy specialist has begun bringing in quite a few top grower (single-estate) Champagnes, too. scottpaul.com.
F&W Wine Guide: 4 New Places to Buy French Wine
Perrine's Wine Shop; Atlanta Owner Perrine Prieur grew up in Burgundy and worked as a sommelier for several years before opening this small shop. The store offers tastings and classes at a 14-foot table made from repurposed metal bridge parts. 1168 Howell Mill Rd., Ste. B; 404-254-5077 or perrineswine.com.
The French Wine Merchant; Palm Beach, Florida Owner Maurice Amiel owned a wine shop for years in New York City before retiring to Palm Beach. Last year, he opened a new store here, focusing on boutique producers from throughout France. 139 N. County Rd.; 561-833-7712 or thefrenchwinemerchant.wordpress.com.
Paris Grocery; Seattle The city's acclaimed Spanish Table recently opened this source for bargain picnic wines; small, sought-after producers (like A. et P. De Villaine); and pâtés and charcuterie. 1418 Western Ave.; 206-682-0679 or parisgroceryseattle.com.
Hopper's Carte des Vins; New Orleans Wine lovers should head to New Orleans's Uptown neighborhood to visit this new store, where general manager Joe Briand (who formerly ran the wine program for Cochon restaurant) stocks star names like Chablis's Patrick Piuze. 5601 Magazine St., Ste. C; 504-227-3888 or hopperscartedesvins.com.