Reflections from Bretagne

Summer is a great time to visit France. Whether you are going to Paris or a regional destination like the Cote d’ Azure, France – particularly in the early shoulder season – offers much to the gastronomic delight. And of course the wine. So. Much. Wine. (Thank you anonymous colleague, you know you are.) Such a delight.

Enjoying a refreshing glass of Muscadet overlooking the Atlantic.

After the obligatory days in Paris – which we don’t discuss here, so much better in travel guides – we left for the western shores of Brittany (French: Bretagne) The seaside town of Pouhlinec was our destination, our home only a half of a kilometer from the shore. Nearby Pointe de Raz extends its arm into the Atlantic as the country’s westernmost point. Further south the district edges up to Pays de Loire and the many offerings of the Loire AOC represents.

The great thing about France is that the wines are paired excruciatingly well to complement the meal offerings from the various regions. Muscadet with moules (mussels). Burgundy Pinot Noir with salmon. Dark peppery Bordeaux with beef and grilled chops. These are the basics you explore out from those points into wherever your palate takes you.

We were fortunate enough to enjoy some great wines without breaking the bank and I offer a few tasting tips here in the event you would like to venture into your own excursions or create a virtual experience from your own home.

1. The 2016 Burgundy and Rhône vintages are shaping up nicely. Very affordable and very available across many AOCs, this vintage will only get better over the next 5-10 years. And on that same note…

2. The 2015 Bordeaux vintage – particularly the right bank offerings – are phenomenal. Much like when 2000, 2005 and 2010 vintages were released (as I say “on the fives”) the 2015 vintage makes a normally good wine great and a normally great wine memorable. While I like the chalky tannins the left bank Cabernet Sauvignon blends offer generally more than the right bank Merlot blends, I believe 2015 will be known for the high quality of the merlot blends. Don’t be like Miles from the movie Sideways. Drink the Merlot particularly in this heralded vintage.

3. Muscadet is a crispy alternative to Champagne. Not that there is anything wrong with Champagne. For a casual glass over lunch or as a respite from touring sites, this varietal has a normally bone dry minerality to it that can give off the freshness of a full sparkling varietal at a fraction of the price. The Loire Valley makes some incredible Muscadet from the melon de Bourgogne grape varietal which became dominant in the western Loire after a hard freeze in the early 1700s. And you won’t break the bank. The current 2017 vintage across the board is very good. And again on that note …

4. Many options for great sparkling wine outside Champagne. Like I say, there is nothing wrong with drinking Champagne. True Champagne is elegant and delicious and socially connotes a sense of accomplishment and happiness. If you want sparkling wine outside of Champagne, however, many good offerings exist. Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay based varietals from Vouvray, Loire, Alsace and Burgundy are great substitutes for weekend brunches when you still want to enjoy sparkling wine and keep to a meal budget. Most French sparkling outside of Champagne are non-vintage, with most of the current releases being from the 2016 and 2017 vintages.

Any tips or experiences of your own? Leave them in the comments. Cheers et salut!


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