The Ten Best French White Wines: A Beginner’s Guide

The Ten Best French White Wines: A Beginner’s Guide

France’s white wines can be counted among the best in the world. Whether you are looking for the best sparkling wines, chiseled white wines, decadent dessert wines, rich Rieslings or ageable Chardonnays—France has it all.

Three French white wines to buy for special occasions

1. Champagne

Every celebration goes with bubbles. Vintage Champagne is the ultimate celebration wine, but its ability to be paired with food is often over-looked. Made in tiny quantities, vintage Champagne is generally made from a producer’s very best vines in the very best vineyards. It is aged a minimum of three years before it can be released, but many are held for even longer. The resulting wines are complex marvels of winemaking.

2. Grand Cru Bourgogne

The Grand and Premier Crus of the Bourgogne region escort the Chardonnay grape to greatness. These complex and age-worthy white wines are worth the splurge and will make any special feast unforgettable.

3. Alsace Riesling

France’s Alsace region is revered for its wines from Riesling—one of the most long-lived white grapes. Traditionally made in a slightly drier style than those made across the Rhine River in Germany, these are exceptional “main course” food wines.

For those who like celebrations to be sweet, a better choice cannot be made than the dessert wines of Bordeaux’s Sauternes region. Situated along the banks of the Ciron River, this area of Bordeaux has the perfect climatic conditions for the development of botrytis—the reason these sweet wines are so special.

Two French white wines to buy for next year

4. Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is certainly well-known for its famous red wines, but the appellation’s white wines are also worth some fanfare. Made in tiny quantities these are beautiful, full-bodied blends of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette Blanche and Bourboulenc.

5. Savennières

The Loire region is home to Chenin Blanc, another age-worthy white grape. The Savennières AOC is considered by many to be the pinnacle of wines made from this fascinating and complex white variety.

Two French wines to buy for next week

6. Sancerre

Sancerre is the darling of the sommelier set for good reason. This Loire Valley appellation crafts stunning wines from Sauvignon Blanc. A fabulously food-friendly wine, there is perhaps no better example of a perfect wine and food pairing than Sancerre and goat cheese.

7. Bordeaux 

The Bordeaux region is also an important destination for lovers of Sauvignon Blanc. Here it can be blended with a small touch of Semillon, which adds body and texture. Look for wines from the Graves sub-region.

Two French white wines to buy for tonight

8. Muscadet

The Loire region is also known for Muscadet, one of the most underrated wines on the planet. Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety, Muscadet is incredibly food friendly and perfect for oysters, light fare and appetizers.

9. Crémant

French sparkling wines made in the traditional method outside of the Champagne region are labeled as “crémant,” providing they meet production requirements. These are fabulous wines that often offer tremendous value. Bourgogne, Alsace and Loire are well-known for quality crémant, but don’t overlook the Jura and Savoie regions—they also craft beautiful bubbles.

No matter the feast or fête there is a French white wine perfect for the occasion. Many of them will challenge even the most deeply seated opinion of ageing white wine, many offer food-pairing nirvana and many are just simply delicious.


Kirra Barnes

Kirra is an independent wine educator and writer.

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