Whether it be steely Chablis, mushroom-scented red Burgundy, or Provence’s sun-tinged rosés, Americans have an insatiable histoire d’amour with French wines. Between 2020 and 2022, the value of imported French wines to the U.S. increased 78 percent, mainly due to an uptick in premium offerings from all regions and styles, and the total import volume increased by almost 30 percent. Overall, French wine again leads the world in imported wines in terms of value.
Next month, France’s most esteemed wine regions will be coming to the U.S. with the return of Taste France at Vinexpo America, flaunting an impressive presence at the annual premier wine and spirits event. On March 8 and 9, 2023, wine and spirits professionals, media, and consumers will convene to meet the renowned tastemakers, uncover new finds, and glean intel about longstanding and emerging regions, varieties, and styles.
The multiplicity of France’s gastronomic excellence will be well-represented, with 115 exhibitors at the French Pavilion—double the number of producers as last year and the largest to date, making up 26 percent of the total exhibitors. It’s proof of the synergistic relationship between French producers eager to deliver authenticity, pleasure, tradition, and innovation and American buyers enthusiastic to share it with consumers. Taste France is again partnering with Christy Canterbury, MW, to offer those trade professionals a unique and thoughtful tasting experience at the event.
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The Taste France Pavilion, found at booth 602, will showcase more than 50 AOCs and 10 major French wine-growing regions, including 20 producers from the Rhône Valley and 11 Champagne houses. Corsica is a new addition, with eight producers touting wines from the unique mountainous terroir, for example, Domaine Sant’Armettu, which uses indigenous Corsican varieties. This year will also include eight spirits brands at the show’s dedicated spirits area, such as Distillerie Combier, the creator of the original Triple Sec orange liqueur.
France is notable for its stringent requirements for foodstuffs and wine, and the AOC system assures wines’ quality and consistency; but today’s producers are transcending that with a burgeoning focus on natural techniques. At Vinexpo America, more than half of the wines at the French Pavilion will be sustainable or organic, with 30 percent certified Haute Valeur Environnementale, or of High Environmental Value (HVE), a designation bestowed by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty. As Canterbury explained, “This initiative includes biodiversity conservation, plant protection strategy, and strict water and fertilizer management. While similar to Terra Vitis, it is more holistic. Use of the symbol requires that at least 95 percent of raw materials in the finished product are certified HVE.”
Canterbury was tasked with sampling almost 200 wines and spirits from the portfolio in a variety of categories. While last year’s selections focused on pairings, this year’s categories are angled towards the eclectic and unexpected, including Best Introduction to Orange Wine, Best Corsican Wine by the Glass, and Best Wine from a Little-Known Appellation. To mirror Taste France’s sustainability initiatives, Canterbury also selected the best vegan wine and one with the lowest carbon footprint.
“The blind tastings were meticulously organized in Paris over the course of four days, with a variety of wines presented each day and even throughout the day to avoid palate fatigue,” she said in a press statement. “I averaged about 45 selections a day, a very reasonable pace to be assured to take good notes to cross-compare the results across the days.”
Canterbury deftly narrowed down the field to her top 50; tapping into consumers’ interest in bubbly, she included several Champagnes as well as the ever-trendy pét-nat and crémant. “One element stood out for me as I tasted this year’s range of wines: the quality across the array of wines from Champagne and Corsica were universally eye-opening,” she said. “It would be hard to choose more different regions in France, and while the diversity of wine styles and price points were fun to experience, the quality was uniformly good to very high in both regions.”
Attendees will have the opportunity to delve into the selections that most impressed her and exchange thoughts on their aromas, flavors, pairing strategy, and more during the show at the French Pavilion. Canterbury will also be facilitating a “Vinexpo Buzz” session on Wednesday, March 8, at 3:30 pm to discuss the impact of climate change on the French wine industry.
This is part of Taste France’s mission to showcase and celebrate the exciting diversity and exceptional quality of the country’s food and drink. Founded in 2020, Taste France wants to convey the joyful shared moments and new connections found through the country’s cuisine. That includes the wine, grown in staggeringly diverse terroirs with a sense of reverence for what goes into the bottle. Traditional-minded winemakers and modern ones share one sentiment: to produce the best quality wines.
For those who partake in life’s palate-pleasing indulgences, France may either remain a elusive locale on a bucket list, conjure nostalgia for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Bordeaux, or usher in anticipation of an upcoming sojourn in the Languedoc; no matter which, wine is probably part of the equation. And attendees poised to take on the Taste France Pavilion at Vinexpo America will have the opportunity to delve into all the destination has to offer.
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