NEVER MIND PARIS’S ABOVEGROUND ATTRACTIONS— IT’S THE REGION’S SOIL THAT HELPS PRODUCE SOME OF FRANCE’S MOST RESPLENDENT WINES. BY LAUREN MOWERY
BISTROS, BAGUETTES and the Eiffel Tower: Everyone has an association with Paris the city, but few know about the geology of the lowland on which it sits. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a rock nerd to appreciate the history of the French heartland. Why? Because the area’s ancient soils contribute inimitability to many of the region’s famous wines.
The Paris Basin, effectively an oval depression, once held an ancient shallow sea. When the waters receded, the detritus of marine life fossilized. As the Basin slowly sagged over millions of years, rivers such as the Loire and Seine cut swaths through layers of limestone and marl.
These rocky outcroppings formed an archipelago of wine regions: Chablis in Burgundy, the Aube subregion of Champagne, and Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre in the Loire Valley. The tasty result: wines of precision and elegance with a distinct mineral character.
Here are four luminous whites, perfect even for the onset of autumn, that express geology every bit as much as grape.
DOMAINE DROUHIN, CHABLIS PREMIER CRU (2016) • $32
Chablis is the coolest, northernmost appellation in Burgundy. It’s here that racy, mineral-soaked Chardonnay best embodies the Paris Basin soils. Domaine Drouhin, which farms biodynamically, produces one of the best-known Premier Crus. The 2016 impresses: focused and long, with notes of lemon and briny minerality. Unfortunately, frost affected production, so snap up bottles when you find them.
DOMAINE HUBERT BROCHARD, TRADITION, SANCERRE (2016) • $24
From the famous region of Sancerre, this small winery is owned by the Brochard family. Their 2016 Tradition, made with 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, is medium-bodied and dry, with zippy acidity and pure fruit flavors of Meyer lemon, fresh-cut herbs and elderflower. Why are the wines of Sancerre—a beloved region for wine drinkers—so distinctive? It’s the soil mix, naturally.
CHÂTEAU DE TRACY, POUILLY-FUMÉ (2016) • $27
The region of Pouilly-Fumé sits across the Loire from Sancerre and shares soil traits, notably flint and limestone. Winemakers are similarly dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc grapes, making 100 percent varietal bottlings including this one from the venerable Château de Tracy. Pouilly-Fumé hasn’t garnered quite the fame of its neighbor, though, often making these wines a better value. The 2016 from this domaine is dry, elegant and lively, with pure citrus flavors and a thread of stony minerality woven throughout.
JACQUES LASSAIGNE, VIGNES DE MONTGUEUX BLANC DE BLANC EXTRA BRUT • $63
Wine drinkers familiar with Champagne likely think of Montaigne de Reims or Côte de Blancs for fine fizz. After all, these areas boast the greatest concentration of villages designated Grand and Premier Cru. Just south, in the Aube, a crop of artisan Champagne producers has emerged. Jacques Lassaigne, a small family-owned vineyard, has a choice site planted primarily with Chardonnay. The limestone-veined soil offers precision and vibrancy, chalky minerality and bright citrus flavors.
LAUREN MOWERY, Incisal Edge’s spirits columnist, has covered the world through the lens of drink for publications including Wine Enthusiast, Forbes and Saveur.