When Helen Johannesen — the LA wine icon behind Helen’s Wines — put together her selection for May’s Eater Wine Club boxes, all she could think about were those outdoor summer meals that linger late into the evening. And for Helen, only a few of her favorite French bottles could do the trick.
"French wine is near and dear to my heart," says Helen. "The terroir is so special and ranging that each bottle is entrenched in the DNA of the place it’s from." Think of your lineup as a meandering tasting through two of the better-known winemaking regions of France: the Loire Valley and the Rhone — as well as a toe-dip into two unsung hero regions that are on the rise: Gaillac and Bugey (but especially Bugey!). Or, you can think of it as a collection of delicious French wines that will blow your mind.
- Sébastien David, Lisounette, Vin de France | Loire Valley, France; rosé, cabernet franc and cinsault: Lisounette is a succulent rosé, a blend of cab franc and cinsault that drinks like a salty watermelon dream. A perfect wine for an outdoor barbecue, this would also pair well with a fried chicken sandwich or Vietnamese spring rolls. Serve just-out-of-the-fridge or keep it on ice ice baby.
- Maison Yves DuPort, Le Beurot | Bugey, France; white, pinot gris: This here is a direct-press pinot gris, and it’s somewhere between a white wine, a skin-contact wine, and rosé though it mostly leans to the latter. (Pinot gris can have a little red or pink fuzz on the skin of the grapes that will tint a wine slightly.) This wine has notes of tea, minerality, and a touch of floral notes. It would be divine with oysters or a seafood tower!
- Marcel Richaud, A La Source, Cotes du Rhone | Rhone Valley, France; red, syrah, grenache, cinsault, mourvedre: This is not as heavy as a normal Cotes du Rhone. A blend of mostly syrah and grenache (Rhone icons) there’s a little bit of carbonic maceration to reduce tannins and bring out the elegant red and purple fruit. Serve this cold on a hot day! It would be a really nice companion to a cheeseburger or veggie burger, or tacos al pastor.
- Domaine Grosbois, La Cuisine de ma Mère En Vacances à Gaillac | Gaillac, France; red, syrah, merlot, duras, braucol: This wine is really focused on the goal of glou glou, which is wine that is meant to be easy to drink, delightful, and gone before you know it. Nicolas has taken the lightest touch with this wine, it’s absolutely divine! Make sure to serve at cellar temperature, around 65 degrees; and with roast chicken or non-spicy Chinese food.
Domaine Jean-Baptiste Senat, Hors Champs | Languedoc, France; red, grenache, carignan: Jean-Baptiste and his wife Charlotte have been leading the natural wine charge in the Minervois, andappellation in the western Languedoc. This is a blend of mostly grenache, though both grapes are coming from biodynamic vines that are fermented in whole bunches. This is a clean sip, a lively red that’s packed with spiced dark fruit and a can’t-miss mineral line driving through it.
- Domaine de la Mongestine, Pinot Noir | Provence, France; red, pinot noir: In a part of France known for mass-produced rosé, this lovely pinot noir is a highly welcomed Provencal bottle. Winemakers Henry and Celine Gozlan are passionate about farming and take a lot of care in making their wines without much fuss at all.This intensely-colored red is fresh and fruit, with cherry and honeysuckle aromas. It’s incredibly elegant and shows a lot of depth.
- Les Terres Blanches, Ancestral Brut | Loire Valley, France; sparkling, chenin blanc: Céline and Benoit Blet have been farming organically since 2010, and making beautiful, natural wines ever since. This is their sparkling beauty — made in the ancestral method, and fully chenin blanc. The bubbles here are fine, and wholly fizzy. There’s a touch of saline with a citrus-packed palate that would do well with seafood or your favorite cheeses.
- Les Équilibristes, Picpoul de Pinet | Languedoc-Roussillon, France; white, picpoul de pinet: Picpouls tend to display lemon notes and white flowers, and this bottle from Les Équilibristes is a shining example of that. You’re instantly greeted with fresh florals and fruits in this absolutely year-round wine. Expect peaches, apples, and pears amid its juicy and smooth mouthfeel.
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