Full-bodied French wine is some of the most famous wines made in Bordeaux and Burgundy. This style of wine typically has higher alcohol content and can be made from multiple grape varieties. Most French full-bodied wines are red wines, so don’t expect to see Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, or Pinot Meunier in a central role. Wine lovers who love full-bodied wines, take note – French wine regions have many excellent bottles to offer.
What is Body In Wine (And Why It Matters)?
Before exploring the wonders of French winemaking, let’s define the wine body. It is one of the most common wine terms, yet few people take the time to define it properly.
Wine body is the feeling of the weight of the wine in your mouth. While that might sound subjective, wine body is a well-recognized factor in wine. It comes in three types: light-bodied, medium-bodied, and full-bodied.
As a rule, most full-bodied wines are red wines (though there are a few white wine bottles that could be described as full-bodied). The key factor influencing wine body is alcohol content. Generally speaking, high alcohol content means a high-bodied wine.
Knowing the basics of wine body matters for two reasons. First, you can make better food pairing decisions like opening a bottle of full-bodied red wine to go with your rich meat dishes. Second, understanding wine body adds to your appreciation of wine. As a result, it is easier to find delicious wines that suit your preferences.
Full-Bodied French Wine Flavors
A few factors shape the taste of each full-bodied French wine: grape varieties, the wine region, alcohol levels, climate differences, residual sugar, and French winemaking methods. French has a long history of using laws like the appellation law to ensure the quality of the wine (i.e., the phrase “Appellation D’origine Contrôlée” on a wine bottle label is an example of French wine law in action). French wine bottles are the foundation of any excellent wine collection.
The complex flavors of full-bodied French wine typically include a more decadent mouth feel. A light-bodied wine is like skim milk to make an analogy to milk. Full-bodied milk is more like 2% milk or even cream. In my experience, full-bodied, delicious wines are best enjoyed gradually over a series of tiny sips. Full-bodied French wine from Bordeaux typically tastes like dark fruit (e.g., black currant and plums) and has earthy qualities.
Which French Wine Region Is Best?
When looking for full-bodied French wine, there are a few well-known French wine regions of note: Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Loire Valley. Of course, other excellent wines are made in other regions, like the sparkling wines from the Champagne wine region.
Bordeaux has a well-earned reputation for making fabulous wine among French winemaking regions. I published a while post just for Bordeaux wine enthusiasts looking for the specific chateau to visit and wines to try.
Finding full-bodied wine in Bordeaux is easy. Closely example, the French wine label for quality markers like a specific wine region or village. In addition, look for AOP (Protected designation of origin) on the bottle. This term is used by the French wine industry (and elsewhere in the European Union) to confirm that a bottle of wine came from a specific area.
Bordeaux Wine Producers To Check Out
The fertile soil of Bordeaux is home to some of the best wine producers in France. Finding the best full-bodied wines is easier when you know specific producers to seek out. Rather than looking at the options from a French Appellation level, I thought it was more helpful to point out specific producers who thrive in the region’s clay-rich soil. These wine products offer a great drinking experience but don’t expect to find affordable wine from all of these producers.
This Bordeaux producer in Saint-Émilion is known for its Premier Grand Cu wines. On average, Chateau Angelus wine sells for more than $400 a bottle (though some bottles are available at a lower price). The dry, oaked red wine is typically made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Also located in Saint-Émilion, Chateau Ausone has an outstanding reputation for producing red wine (vin rouge). With a retail price starting at $300, this wine is worth keeping in mind for a special celebration. The wine has intense fruity aromas like raspberry and red currant.
Known for its sweet wines, drinking Chateau Coutet goes well with dessert. This Bordeaux wine is also relatively affordable, with bottles starting at about $40 per bottle. The white wine is a blend of several white grapes, including Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle.
Chateau Lafite Rothschild
Enjoying French food with a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild is truly a bucket list experience. Chateau Lafite Rothschild has been one of the most famous French wine producers for centuries. The fame of the wine producer also means that these wines tend to sell for high prices. Expect to pay an average price of at least $500 per bottle from a wine store (and much more if you buy it at a restaurant or bar). The dry, oaked red wine blend is made from a blend of several red wine grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot
Burgundy Wine Producers
Burgundy wines take a different approach. Instead of emphasizing a blend of wine, the French wine industry in Burgundy emphasizes specific grapes. Take the Côte de Beaune as an example. This village appellation is known for one red grape varietal (Pinot Noir) and one white grape varietal (Chardonnay). Pinot Noir from Burgundy usually has a medium body (though you can undoubtedly find full-bodied red wine).
Let’s look at Burgundy’s best wines – the Burgundy Grand Crus. There are only thirty-three Grands Cru vineyards in Burgundy, and these wines typically carry a high price.
Let’s consider both red and white wines from Burgundy. In the white Burgundy category (also known as Burgundy Chardonnay), try a bottle of wine from Chevalier Montrachet.
For full-bodied red wine, there are more options like Richebourg and Bonnes-Mares. The distinctive character of Bonnes-Mares is made exclusively from Pinot Noir – the full-bodied wine is noted for its richness. The aromas include violet and hummus.
Other French Wine Regions
While Bordeaux and Burgundy are famous for a good reason, France has so much more to discover. For example, it’s worth checking out the Cahors region to find producers like Chateau Lagrezette and Chateau Lamagdelaine Noire. If you prefer rosé wine, then check out the Côtes De Provence in the south of France.
Full-Bodied French Wine Food Pairing
The fantastic wines produced by the French wine industry are even better when you enjoy them with a variety of foods. The classic food pairing for rich red wines is steak and rich meat dishes. If you love barbequed meats, grilled meats, lamb chops, burgers, or steak, a bottle of full-bodied wine is a great way to go.
Wine Investment and Counterfeit Wines
Some people choose to build a wine portfolio as an investment by working with a wine investment company. Instead of holding wine for a special occasion, these wine buyers hope to sell their wine collection for a profit in the future.
Wine investment is an example of investing in alternative assets – somewhat comparable to investing in collectibles or artwork. Considering the pros and cons of wine investment goes beyond the scope of this website. However, there is a critical issue to keep with investing in mind.
Your investment preferences and risk appetite need to manage the risk of counterfeit wines. The value of your wine portfolio can be compromised if buyers doubt your commitment to authentic wines. For an exciting exploration of counterfeit wines, see my review of The Billionaire’s Vinegar. If you neglect managing this risk, you’ll have nothing but expensive grape juice. Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of counterfeit wines by working with experts and learning about wine yourself.