‘Extra Dry’ doesn’t mean extra dry
When you see a sparkling wine that says “Extra Dry”, this is actually slightly sweet. The sparkling wine dryness scale is Brut Nature > Extra Brut > Brut > Extra Dry > Dry > Demi-Sec > Doux. Extra Dry contains 12-17g per litre of residual sugar compared to the dryer Brut of 0-12g/l.
Impact of climate on wine
Climate has a big impact on the types of grapes grown and the style of wines made. In cooler climates and higher altitudes, grapes tend to be thin skinned (so less tannins) and retain acidity, allowing for crisp dry white wines and lighter red wines. In warmer climates, wines tend to have more full-bodied with a wider variety of flavour characteristics. It will be the wine-makers choice to develop secondary characteristics such as toast/brioche by leaving the wine to age on its lees, or vanilla from oak-ageing.
How to navigate France
France is probably the hardest country to study in wine, because of its immense history, reputation, and wine restrictions. The labels don’t make it easy to understand either. Once you understand which grapes are grown where, it’ll make it easier for you to choose French wines that you will enjoy. Typically you will find the following grapes grown in the following regions (this is only indicative and not an exhaustive list).
• Alsace – Riesling, Gewürztraminer
• Beaujolais – Gamay
• Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
• Burgundy – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
• Cahors – Cot (Malbec)
• Champagne – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier
• Cotes du Rhone – Grenache, Syrah, Viognier
• Jura – Savagnin
• Loire – Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc
• Madiran – Tannat
• Provence – Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre
New World vs Old World Cab Sav
Cabernet Sauvignon from the Old World has more herbal and floral flavours such as violets and tobacco. A Bordeaux (Cab Sav / Merlot blend), will usually have hints of black cherries and liquorice along with some earthiness. Cab Sav from the New World are often more fruit-forward, with spicy black pepper and vanilla. The New World wines tend to have a little bit less tannin and acidity but have more alcohol.