The Bordeaux and Champagne regions of France both produce some of the world’s finest white wines. Champagne is most famous for its sparkling white wine, while Bordeaux produces several premium dessert wines. Here’s a close look at the regions of Sauternes in Bordeaux and Montagne de Reims in Champagne:
Bordeaux Wine Region: Sauternes
Best Known For: Premium sweet, white dessert wines.
Climate: Sauternes boasts a maritime climate year round with several periods of severe frost and hail in some years which can affect the vintage.
Varietals: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes
Wine Production: As a subregion of Graves, Sauternes produces some of France’s sweetest white wines. The region is heavily infected with a special type of fungus that helps with the rotting process. This ‘noble rot’ allows the grape to maintain a high level of acidity and also a high sugar content. As the desiccation process begins, the grapes contain an even higher sugar content and are very high in tartaric acid.
However, the cost of production of wine in Sauternes is relatively high because each season is hit-or-miss. Sauternes is located approximately 25 miles southeast of the city of Bordeaux and the climate stays fairly dry and warm for most of the year. However, some years experience severe cold fronts that can damage the grapes.
Communes: Sauternes is comprised of five major communes that are permitted to label their wines with the Sauternes name. These are: Barsac, (Sauternes), Bommes, Preignac and Fargues.
Champagne Wine Region: Montagne de Reims
Best Known For: nutty, refreshing sparkling white wine
Climate: The high latitude of the Champagne region and cooler temperatures make it easy to produce a highly acidic, sparkling wine. This region experiences heavy rains during the harvest months and frost during the winter. Spring and summer are relatively mild. The Montagne de Reims produces primarily Pinot Noir grapes.
Varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are black grapes, while the Chardonnay grape is white.
Wine Production: The region of Champagne, France was the first region in the world to produce the famous sparkling white wine that is used in celebrations today. The Verzenay vineyards in Montagne de Reims are among the most-recognized producers of champagne and the village produces a rich, flavorful, nutty white wine with a full texture and smooth finish. Verzenay vineyards cover approximately 424 hectares in the northern region of the Reims mountain range, and it’s the rich soil of the region that gives the grapes their delicate flavor and full body.