Many of my wine-focused trips abroad begin with touching down at Charles de Gaulle, heading into the city center, and loading up on a big lunch at a classic French bistro. As simple as it sounds, drinking a chilled carafe of French wine after a long flight immediately does something to my soul. These wines are everything that you want them to be: they’re unfussy, they’re food-friendly, and they’re super easy to drink. In short, these wines embody everything that made me fall in love with wine in the first place. When I envision ‘bistro wine,’ my mind immediately thinks high acid, approachable tannins (in reds), and all-around savory juice that can stand up to the hearty nature of traditional French fare.
Since most of our international travel plans were pivoted this summer, I want to bring a taste of European adventure your way. This month, it’s all about the French-inspired ‘bistro box.’ I hope you enjoy these wines as much as I do! Simply prep something delicious (think coq au vin, classic steak frites, or even a simple cheese board), and get ready for some French-inspired fun.
First up, we’ve got a traditional-method sparkling from Lorraine, one of France’s smallest wine-producing regions. This rural area is located in the eastern part of the country and shares its borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. Here, vineyards are heavily influenced by the Vosges mountains, which create a rain shadow and allow for abundant sunshine.
A handful of grapes are cultivated in Lorraine, including Gamay, Aligoté, Pinot Meunier, and more. Most of the bubbles produced here are crafted via the méthode traditionelle, otherwise known as the méthode champenoise. The bottle featured in this shipment is made entirely from Gamay. It’s sharp, refreshing, and super fun to drink. If you love bubbles, Gamay, or all things rosé, this might just be your top pick.
Next, we’re headed west to Sancerre. I truthfully don’t drink Sauvignon Blanc as much as I should, though every time I pour myself a glass of Sancerre, I’m instantly reminded why this grape is so incredible. When produced at the right hands, Sauvignon Blanc-based wines are refreshing, acid-driven, and pair well with a variety of foods. However, there’s something particularly special about Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre. Here, flinty soils create a distinct mineral presence in the wine, which makes them a bit more savory than SB from other regions. I love all of the crushed seashell and wet stone flavors found in a good glass of Sancerre, and this bottle from Bailly-Reverdy is no exception.
From the Loire, we’re heading southeast to the Coteaux du Lyonnais, which are the hillsides located just west of the city of Lyon. I love this appellation for so many reasons. In terms of viticultural designations, the region is technically located in the Rhône Valley; however, due to its close proximity to Beaujolais, Gamay is the grape of choice here.
Most of the region’s winemakers vinify their fruit using carbonic maceration, which is the technique of choice for many Beaujolais-based vignerons. In short, this practice involves letting the grapes begin fermentation intracellularly, meaning that the berries are not crushed right away. This technique creates quaffable, fruit-driven red wines that are perfect for serving chilled and sipping on the fly. When I think French bistro wine, this is exactly the style of red that comes to mind.
Last, but not least, we’re back in the Loire for a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc. Like Gamay, Cabernet Franc is a pretty big staple in the French bistro world. The wines’ moderate tannins, high acidity, and peppery fruit-forwardness are perfect for pairing with a variety of dishes. Whenever I smell Cabernet Franc, I’m instantly transported to a small wicker table under a striped awning in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. This is the stuff that Parisian carafe wine dreams are made of. Serve it chilled, close your eyes, and instantly transport yourself back to that sunny summer afternoon in the City of Lights.
As our world continues to navigate its way through these strange times, I truly hope that this little taste of France brings a serious dose of joie de vivre to your home.
Dustin Wilson, Master Sommelier
Domaine Migot Méthode Traditionnelle Brut Rosé NV
Lorraine may just be one of France’s most overlooked and underrated growing regions, though producers like Domaine Migot certainly make it worth seeking out. Camille Migot’s estate is based in the Côtes de Toul, which is home to just 100 hectares (approx.) of vines. Although young, Camille is a serious winemaker. His family has been working their vineyards for 13 generations, and Camille now farms them organically. This Brut Rosé is produced entirely from hand-harvested Gamay via the méthode traditionelle. The wine is fresh, textured, and loaded with flavors of tart strawberries, red currants, and brioche.
PAIRING IDEAS: This fun and easy-drinking pink fizz is perfect for sipping with cheese boards, crusty baguettes, and a variety of charcuterie. You really can’t go wrong here.
Domaine Bailly-Reverdy Sancerre Chavignol 2019
Domaine Bailly-Reverdy is a leading pioneer of sustainable viticulture in Sancerre. Located in the village of Bué, the estate farms 23 hectares of vines across some of the region’s most sought-after vineyard sites. This delicious bottle is a classic expression of Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre: it’s crisp, it’s thirst-quenching, and it undeniably reflects the place from which it comes. Fruit for this bottle comes from limestone-heavy soils and is 95% lees-aged in steel for 4-5 months (the other smidge is aged in neutral barrels). The wine’s acid-driven palate is loaded with flavors of citrus rind, grapefruit juice, gunsmoke, gooseberries, and lime leaf.
PAIRING IDEAS: The bright acid and flinty backbone of this wine make it a no-brainer for serving with salty oysters or warm goat cheese salads.
Guillaume Clusel ‘Traboules’ Coteaux du Lyonnais 2018
This magenta-hued Gamay is produced at the hands of Guillaume Clusel, who is the son of famed winemaking duo Brigitte Roch and Gilbert Clusel (Clusel-Roch). Guillaume works exclusively with organically-farmed fruit in Saint-Joseph and the Coteaux du Lyonnais. This cuvée is steel-vinified with native yeasts and incorporates 1/3 whole bunches. The wine is juicy, fruit-driven, and loaded with notes of raspberries, blueberry skin, red flower petals, earth spice, and potpourri.
PAIRING IDEAS: This easy-drinking Gamay is the ideal ‘chillable’ red. Pop in the fridge for ten minutes and serve with ratatouille, coq au vin, or gooey croque monsieurs.
Domaine de la Bergerie 'La Cerisaie' Anjou Rouge 2018
Yves Guégniard is the driving force behind Domaine de la Bergerie, a Loire-based estate known for its balanced and acid-driven wines. The property was first purchased by Yves’ grandmother back in 1964 and has always maintained a quality-over-quantity mentality. Yves is now joined by his daughter Anne, who is bringing a breath of fresh air to the estate. All of the family’s 36 hectares of vineyards are in the process of being converted to organic viticulture. ‘La Cerisaie’ is an 80/20 blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is loaded with flavors of ripe red fruits, black cherries, fresh cut herbs, and violets.
PAIRING IDEAS: This grippy yet light-on-its-feet red is perfect for serving with hearty French favorites such as steak au poivre, cassoulet, or beef bourguignon.