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The Ten Best French Red Wines: A Beginner’s Guide

The French red wines can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but they are actually easy to understand by just knowing a few basics. French winemakers have had such success in matching the perfect grape variety to specific plots of land for so long, that these marriages have been codified into law. That means that each wine region can grow only the varieties that grow well in that area. Hundreds of years of trial and error have passed and wine buyers of today can generally be assured that any given bottle of French wine will taste as it should. That’s not to say that French winemakers are not allowed to experiment and innovate—they are, just under specific appellations. Once you know the best varieties for each region, shopping for French red wine is a snap!

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Where is Southwest France? (with map)

Southwest France (Sud Ouest) is best known for what it isn’t. Frankly, and unfortunately, it’s not widely recognized at all. With an accompanying eye-roll, I must report that many people have asked me – quite genuinely – “where is Southwest France?”!

Let’s get positioned on the map. Sud Ouest is the deepest rural France, la France profonde. “In terroir terms, it’s a big area and rather difficult to generalise about, but most of the high-quality vineyard zones…owe their existence to the slopes created by rivers coming down either from the Massif Central, or from the Pyrenees. The overall zone is the Aquitaine Basin, and almost all of the soils…have been developed from sedimentary rocks of various kinds, or by the action of the rivers themselves.”(1)

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