Are you looking for a southern France white wine because you are dreaming of the European ‘wine’ trip you had planned this year? I know I am. This year I had planned to discover the many luscious, but little known wines of Southern France – Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, and the Southern Rhone Valley. I still have my fingers crossed!
We are fortunate that some of these southern France white wines are available in the US, allowing us to soak up some of the delights of southern France. We invite you to try some of these wines yourself made from great grapes and prepare for your next trip! If you want to learn more about the wine regions in France, check out our class on Where’s the Wine.
Grenache Blanc originated in Spain, and from there it jumped to France where it became a staple as part of the world-renowned Rhône blends and Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. In hot and dry climates, this variety can struggle to achieve good acidity. But, Grenache Blanc is highly resistant to drought. So, it thrives in windy, arid regions such as southern France. Generally it produces a high alcohol, low acidic wine, Grenache Blanc typically displays green-apple, stone fruit and rich, nutty, nutmeg-and-cinnamon spice aromas with a soft texture. It can be very sensitive to terroir. So, it shows considerable variation based on where the grapes come from. Wines made from 100% Grenache Blanc grapes are non-fruity, high in alcohol, and mild flavored with notes of peppery spices.
You can pair these wines with any Spanish dish, Mediterranean food, or even French food that contains traces of ginger, garlic or other such roots.
Picpoul Blanc is one of the oldest white wine varietals from the south of France. It is perhaps most popular in the Languedoc Roussillon appellation. Picpoul is a shrill, acidic grape. In fact, an English translation of Picpoul is ‘stings the lip’. That lip stinging quality refers to it’s very high acidity level. It grows well in a warm dry climate.
The grapes grow in loose bunches, are oval shaped, and come off easily. That is why, pickers often place trays beneath the vines to catch falling grapes! Picpoul Blanc is the key grape in the AOC Picpoul de Pinet. Ninety percent of France’s Picpoul grapes are grown in the Picpoul de Pinet appellation.
Roussanne is a white-wine grape but has a reddish-gold skin color. The French word roux means “russet” or reddish-brown. Although, it is thought that this grape originated in the northern Rhone Valley, it is also planted in Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. It is seen most often in the Northern Rhone in the appellations of Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, St. Joseph and St. Peray as well as Cotes du Rhone Blanc. The variety benefits from the warm temperatures and long sunlight hours it needs for full maturity in the southern regions of France. Roussanne is a late ripening grape that produces powerful white wines with scents of fresh flowers, peaches, herbs, pears, and hints of pepper.
Roussanne pairs well with a wide variety of seafood dishes, especially shellfish, cod, lobster, crab and of course the most important fish dish of Southern France, bouillabaisse, pate, roast chicken, pork, veal, cream sauces, spicy flavors, Asian cuisine and with a vast array of different soft and hard cheeses.