In many ways, making great French white wine is more demanding than making red. Everything must be perfect for achieving that distinctive balance between crisp acidity and juicy fruitiness. Well, this year, the stars aligned for French vignerons; their white wine is off the charts!
This is our list of the best French white wines of 2021, and although it’s far from being a complete list, it features fantastic ambassadors for their category.
Let’s start this year’s list with a refreshing and mineral Chablis from a high-quality producer, Dampt Freres. The family-owned estate is sustainable and beautifully balances modern and traditional techniques to make the most out of their old vines. The estate is a pioneer in the ‘lutte raisonnée’ philosophy, aiming at preserving the land while making the best wine possible. Expect the most attractive green apple aromas and white flowers over a mineral, almost chalky palate. What a great Chardonnay!
Here’s another Chardonnay, this one from the warmer vineyards down in Pouilly Fuissé. Creamy and infused with warm spices, the use of oak in this golden wine is clear but not overpowering. Jean Jacques Litaud is a third-generation estate, and they make the most structural and charming Chardonnay in the region; the white soils in their 9.6-hectare vineyards are home to 80-year-old vines that are perfectly adapted to the sunny appellation.
You can’t talk about French white wine without mentioning the floral and addictively mineral dry Rieslings from Alsace, and amongst our favourites, there’s the acclaimed Hatschbourg Grand Cru. In the hands of Joseph Cattin, a Domaine with 300 years of vinous history, this Riesling really comes to life. Petrol aromas, flowers and peaches dominate the bouquet over a medium-bodied palate in this age-worthy white wine. This Grand Cru is incredibly versatile on the table as well, especially with white meat.
The Terrien family’s commitment to sustainable farming in the cool Atlantic Coast is inspiring, and you can taste their effort in their Muscadet. The crisp and palate-cleansing wine is made with 100% Melon de Bourgogne, and although austere, the wine is utterly charming. This is the perfect wine for oysters, raw fish, sushi and sashimi. Look for peach notes and herbal hints on the nose, and the palate is pure white fruit and minerality!
The Barreau family is highly respected in Gaillac for their traditional, hands-off approach to winemaking. The estate’s wine is truly something, and it has helped put the historic wine region back on the map. Barreau’s Augustin White is a blend of Mauzac, Sauvignon and the local Ondenc, and the wine spends time on its fine lees to gain richness. You’ll find gorgeous scents redolent of green apples and citrus over a thirst-quenching palate.
You’ll find Buzet on the left bank of the Garonne River, Southwest France, and it’s an up-and-coming region with deep-rooted winemaking traditions. Buzet’s red, white and rosé wines are fantastic, but we’re particularly fond of the white wine made with Sauvignon. Citrusy and peachy and with the loveliest herbal undertones, this is a unique Sauvignon and a great value. The Sud-Ouest is the French wine region to watch this year.
A can’t-miss in every top white wine list, Masson Blondelet makes flinty, mineral wine with Sauvignon in some of the most prestigious vineyards in Pouilly Fumé. This pale white wine sets the bar high for Sauvignon wine worldwide, and it’s one of the most respected producers in the appellation. This one is a hard find, but it’s worth looking out for. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll love Masson-Blondelet; it’s one of the best in the world.
Eric Fabre is an authentic celebrity in Southern France. The former winemaker in Chateau Lafite Rothschild now tends his own estate in La Clape. And although we’ve talked about Chateau D’Angles red wine before, the estate’s white wine is equally exciting. This straw-coloured wine is made with 50% Bourboulenc, 30% Grenache, 10% Roussanne, 10% Marsanne, and it’s an authentic homage to Southern France’s well-rounded white wines. The white D’Angles ages well, too!
Sparkling wine is white wine as well, and for the category, there’s nothing better than Champagne. This year, though, we’re not focusing on the large houses but the small producers. Casters Liebart is a fifth-generation récolectant-manipulant, and the estate’s Cuvée Vincent, a Chardonnay – Pinot Noir blend vinified to dryness, is one of its greatest expressions. Refreshing and light but with an attractive weight on the palate, this creamy Champagne is delicious on its own but also superb at the table.
Sweet white wine is trending in 2021, and no one does it better than the passionate producers in Sauternes. Our favourite this year is Chateau Haut-Bergeron, an estate going back to 1756. This is top-class Sauternes made with botrytised Semillon grapes affected by the noble rot. Enjoy peach and apricot aromas over a luscious and decadent palate of immense concentration and length. This one is fantastic with dessert; actually, it’s dessert in itself! Don’t miss out on this golden beauty.
White Wine for Days!
France has truly surpassed everyone’s expectations this year, especially for white wine. There’s no doubt there’s quality here, and we’re talking about the big leagues here. There’s more good news. French red wine is just as good this year!
France is definitely back up the popularity chart, and they’ve set the bar high for the global wine industry in 2021. What’s your favourite French white wine? We’d love to know! If you try one of the beauties listed above, share with us your tasting notes!