French White Wines for Summer

French Wine Explorers | Tuesday, Jul 7th 2009

In the hot summer weather, there is a spectrum of fine French white wines to savor. Light or medium weight, the emphasis should be on flavors, and complementing your dining choices.

Clearly, many meals are going to be informal. Uncomplicated, flavorful wines will set them off perfectly. With a Caesar Salad, topped with grilled chicken or shrimp, try a Château Fage Graves de Vayres 2007 ($9 retail). It provides light flavors with a touch of citrus, complementing the food without competing with it. Another favorite from the Bordeaux area is Monsieur Touton Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($8). That’s the bottle with a picture of the Bordeaux Opera House on the label. Buy it by the magnum for extra value. (See our Bordeaux tours here)

On the Eastern Shore, crabs are a festive summer treat. You’ll want a good Muscadet from the Loire Valley, such as a Château de la Chesnaie 2008 ($10) or, if you can find it, my personal favorite, a Marquis de Goulaine 2007 Muscadet sur lie ($12). Full disclosure : this historic estate near Nantes is where I joined the Brittany wine society, the Chevaliers du Bretvin, with a sumptuous wine dinner that may still be going on! This wine is made to go with light seafood. We have an indelible memory of a chilled bottle of Muscadet with a seafood luncheon at the Old Port of La Rochelle. These are wines with more body, fermented with the crushed Muscadet grapes in contact with their lees to bring out flavor.

For oysters, nothing beats real Chablis. That’s as it should be, since Chablis grapes are grown in western Burgundy on an enormous subsoil of prehistoric crushed seashells – the same one that emerges farther north as the White Cliffs of Dover! Chablis is being discovered now, and the prices are rising. All the more reason to find a bottle of William Fèvre’s Les Champs Royaux 2007 ($28). When we visited him in Chablis, Mr. Fèvre told us that he selects the Chardonnay grapes for this wine with as much care as much as he puts into his grand and premier cru wines, and then barrel ages the wine.

For heavier fare, a more substantial wine. We had lobsters for Father’s Day, and a bottle of Lucien Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvée Balthazar 2007 ($11). This full and richly flavorful wine is named for the family ancestor who first settled in the present Alsatian property in 1698! Look to this firm for a spectrum of values in fine Alsatian wines.

Wine Of The Month

Do you want to set a Bordeaux table? Then do as they do, and serve Château Carbonneux white wine 2007 ($37) with your first course. The flavor is light, setting the stage for a red wine to follow. This is a traditional Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend from an historic Graves estate. The shell on the label recalls that this was a stop on the pilgrimage route to Saint James of Compostella in Spain. And the owners tell the story that a Moslem Ambassador to France once shipped some cases back to Istanbul labelled as “French water.” Some was served by error in Istanbul, and a guest was heard to ask, “If French water is so good, why do they drink wine?”

What’s your favorite French white wine? Comment below!