Food & Wine Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle shares highlights from the October French wine issue.
Ray Isle Here's to France
Credit: Cedric Angeles

As a wine lover I drink omnivorously, but if you chucked me onto the proverbial desert island and gave me only one country I could have wine from for the rest of my life—dire fate to be sure—it’d have to be France. So when F&W Editor-in-Chief Hunter Lewis invited me to introduce this French wine issue, I said, “Oui, monsieur,” of course.

The breadth and depth of what France offers, when it comes to fermented grape juice, is unparalleled: bright, brilliant whites; juicy, crushable reds; stunning values; icons that will age for decades (and dent your bank account accordingly); wines that are sweet, dry, funky, bubbly—you name it. Plus, French wines go with literally everything, from the chicken Chettinad I made the other night (I matched the South Indian dish with Anne-Sophie Dubois’ fruity, earthy 2015 Fleurie L’Alchimiste from Beaujolais) to the cedar-baked asparagus with truffle aioli at chef John Fraser’s terrific new Times Square restaurant, 701West. (I had it with an older Savennières from Domaine aux Moines.)

In the October issue, we explore the wines of the Loire Valley with superstar sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier. We take you to Corsica to try varieties like Niellucciu and Sciacarellu, along with great local dishes. In Bordeaux, we check out the revolutionary new bistro scene. If relaxing with a Condrieu or Châteauneufdu-Pape as you cruise down the Rhône is more your style, we’ve got you there, too. Finally, if all these names mean zip to you, head here for an accessible primer on everything that’s wine and French.

People sometimes find French wine daunting. I prefer to say that French wine is exciting. Sure, there’s a lot to learn, but you learn by tasting and traveling, and where’s the downside of that? All you need is that first bottle. For me, that was eons ago, when I was working in a rare bookstore in Washington, D.C. A woman came in the door looking annoyed; her Jaguar had broken down at the intersection down the block. Could she use the phone? Life in a rare bookstore is very slow, so this definitely counted as excitement. I said sure, she said thanks, and that was it. Story over. Except that three days later she appeared in the door with a bottle of wine. “I just wanted to say thanks,” she said. The label said it was from Montagny. I thought, wow, must be fancy (I mean, she owned a Jaguar, right?). I drank it that evening, loved it, and the next day went to my local wine store and said, “What’s a Montagny?” Open door to France.

That’s all you need, really. One taste, one bottle. I hope this issue works for you the way that unexpected gift worked for me. Salut!