Much like global politics, art and architecture, French wine is one of those subjects that can strike terror into the heart of even the most confident, well-seasoned traveller. It’s an enigmatic world riddled with variables, subjective opinion and the ebb and flow of taste. Getting your head around the basics can be intimidating, but the sommeliers at Parisian cellar La Cave du Château are well-placed to lend a hand.
The slick operation, located below a splendid Haussmann townhouse on avenue Franklin Roosevelt, is the work of family-owned company Domaine Clarence Dillon, whose wine pedigree is well documented in the country. Its solid reputation is built on close relationships with various wine growers, in-depth knowledge of each wine – its terroir (soil), climate, vines, composition, taste – and a clever storage set-up (every wine is kept at its optimum temperature). The result is a vaulted treasure trove of both classic and harder-to-find bottles, one which can now also be accessed online, along with the wisdom of its resident oenophiles.
Here, Damien de Gironde, director of La Cave du Château, gives us a whistle-stop tour of four key areas: ‘A good wine should be long, balanced, flawless and should reflect its region,’ he says. So perhaps the first thing to note is that French wine is labelled by its region as opposed to grape variety. From silky Burgundies to the Loire Valley’s crisp Sauvignon Blancs, here’s an easy-to-follow expert guide to four French wine regions, including recommended bottles to buy.