France and grape vines have been entwined since Roman times. The vineyards not only produce some of the world’s greatest wines, they are also a vital part of France’s economy, culture and gastronomy. Sometimes as wine drinkers we find ourselves only buying familiar brands and we forget the distinctive expression of French wines.

Most French winemakers work by the principle of a specific place or territory known as terroir. The idea is that wine is primarily an expression of place, soil, slope and sun; the actual grape variety comes second to all of these in importance. Unlike winemakers in most other growing regions of the world, French winemakers choose a terroir and then the grape, focusing on the impact of the best of its expression.

Another unique aspect to French wines is that the quality wine system is based on appellations — carefully designated geographical zones — maintained by traditions of unique grapes and methods of cultivation and winemaking. This system is carefully and strictly regulated down to the method of watering. The end results of these regulations are distinct, local styles identifiable to the regions.

These are some of my favorite French wines.

THE VALUES

  • 2014 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages (about $14 retail)
  • 2015 Chateau Bonnet Bordeaux (about $16 retail)
  • 2013 Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone (about $15 retail)
  • 2014 Les Garrigues Cotes du Rhone (about $15 retail)
  • 2014 Chateau Pilet Bordeaux (about $15 retail)
  • 2012 Baron de Luze Bordeaux (about $14 retail)

THE SPLURGES

  • 2014 La Crele Sancerre, (about $30 retail)
  • 2012 Feraud-Brunel Chateauneuf du Pape (about $45 retail)
  • 2012 Chateau de Belle-vue St. Emilion (about $36 retail)
  • 2012 Chateau Blaignan Bordeaux (about $21 retail)
  • 2014 Chateau Greysac Medoc, (about $25 retail)
  • 2015 Marc Bredif Vouvray (about $26 retail)
  • 2012 Chateau Picque Caillou Pessac-Leognan (about $40 retail)
  • 2015 Chateau de Sancerre (about $28 retail)