I spent a column talking about different grapes and the wines they yield.  There are two parts of a good wine, the materials used and the way it is made.  Of course the product depends on both, but in my mind how you make the wine is more important than what you use. 

The French are the paradigm for how to make wine.  They have elevated the making of wine from a cottage industry to heights of pure magic.  Proof is that most French wines are blends which demand complete knowledge of available materials, i.e. grapes.  They adjust the blends according to the quality of the various harvests of the year. 

The fly in my theory is wine from Burgundy, France.  I was surprised to learn that the great Burgundies, which many consider to be the “greatest of the great,” are made almost exclusively of pinot noir grapes, a grape that is very hard to use.  Again, however, the French show their magic by producing outstanding wine from this hard to use grape. 

I recently had the chance to try a top Burgundy.  After my first sip I proclaimed, “This is real wine!”  A fantastic nectar that was clean, clear, full of fruit and had a beautiful finish.   When one imbibes a wine like that he almost wants to not try another again.  The only times I recall a similar feeling was after tasting  a rich Chardonnay from Australia and our main wine import from Spain.  And the Australian and Spanish greats paled in comparison to the Burgundy. Of course different tastes dictate that the Burgundy is not the only wine sold.

In spite of its obvious prestige, I have never imported French wine.  There are too many already laboring in this vineyard (pun intended).  But if I did, I would be looking for something new and unusual from Bordeaux.  As far as I am concerned, the winemakers in that region offer the greatest attempts at pushing the limits of good wines.  In fact, I tell people that, if they are having a dinner for others or ordering a wine for a group at a restaurant, they will not go wrong selecting the most modestly priced Bordeaux to serve. 

Okay, okay Leo, so what French wine do I buy?  My two suggestions here are first, if you ever see a French wine made from Cabernet Franc grapes, either totally or mostly, buy it.  While Cabernet Franc is a standard grape used in French blends, it is rarely used exclusively or predominantly in making a wine.  A real sleeper.  Second, I recommend Mouton Cadet in the 1.5 liter bottle.  This reliable standard offers great quality to price value.  And you should be able to buy it at your shop, since it is reputedly the most widely sold wine in the world. 

For those of you living in the Washington DC area and want to learn about great French wines, please visit Silesia Liquors in Silesia, Maryland.  I went to high school with the Tilch boys who created this landmark wine shop, but only learned in later life that they were the most knowledgeable purveyors of fine French wine in the area, perhaps on the entire East Coast.