Explaining French wine to non French people: The Wine Masters Series

A few years ago an American friend visiting Bordeaux told me he loved Pinot Noir. Being French I answered: “You’re certainly in the wrong region. You should go to Burgundy: their wines are great.” His puzzled look told volumes. Pinot Noir and Burgundy were not a natural association in his mind. We cleared up the misunderstanding and he shook his head in dismay at my long explanation.

But his reaction and my experience dealing with foreigners in love with French wines got me thinking. Being French in the wine business can be a source of frustration when trying to explain Controlled Appellations and regions to a non French student or wine lover. Is there a good (fun, interesting, informative) way to explain French wine to non French people?

Yes! The Wine Masters series did it with the help of Jeannie Cho Lee and Tim Atkin, MW. The idea came to the team of the Dutch movie production company Farmhouse TV & Film. All their films are produced from A to Z by themselves. Wine is a topic that is informative and entertaining at the same time as part of the European lifestyle.

The French wine industry is portrayed through five regions: Burgundy, Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Loire Valley and Alsace. Each region is linked to a family of outstanding winemakers: Bordeaux with the Boüart family, Rhône with the Guigals, Alsace with the Trimbachs, Loire with Henri Bourgeois and Burgundy with the Drouhins.

What is so special about the series, should the (intrigued?) reader ask? We are not watching the history of the family or the region, but mostly the history of the major grape(s) connected to the area: Pinot noir (red) and Chardonnay (white) in Burgundy, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürtztraminer in Alsace, Syrah (red) and Viognier (white) in the Rhône Valley, Sauvignon blanc in Loire and the famous Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Bordeaux.

I watched the Rhône Valley episode and was fascinated by the story of the grapes and the Côte Rotie as well as interested by the way the Guigals built their business:

As soon as I heard about the series and watched the episode on the Rhône valley, I was thrilled by the intellectual approach of the subject. French wines are complex because of their link to the famous terroir. The series producers understood that they could broach the subject by the grape variety angle. The human aspect of the wine business is represented by a family of the area: the Guigal’s story is one of hardship, passion, talent and work and can be watched as the most compelling episode of your favorite TV series. Last but not least, the information is conveyed in a simple and clear language.

Want to learn more about French wines? You can access the series for a year, 14 days or rent an episode for two days. The financial investment is modest for the fabulous quality of the production. Enjoy without moderation!