The Tour de France is the world’s most-watched sporting event, with an estimated 3.5 billion viewers tuning in each year to see the likes of Mark Cavendish and Mathieu van der Poel cycle a staggering 2,200 miles in a little over three weeks.
The race was first held back in 1903, established by French journalist (and cyclist) Henri Desgrange, and has been staged every year except during the World Wars. This year’s event began in Brest, Brittany, on 26 June and heads across the Loire Valley over to the Alps before heading south through the Rhône Valley and the Languedoc before heading to Bordeaux then the final stage in Paris on 18 July.
To mark this iconic sporting event, we’ve picked out the 15 best French wines that show off the diversity and regionality of this vinous powerhouse.
What comes through from the judging is how strong France is at making big-hearted red wines, particularly in the south-east, home to the Rhône Valley and the great-value wines from Languedoc-Roussillon further south. Reds from these two regions achieved five of the six highest scores, including three IWSC Gold Medals.
But the reality is that France is a master of every style imaginable. If you’re after elegant, aromatic whites, head to the Loire Valley where you’ll find delicious Sauvignon Blanc, or Alsace if you’re a fan of Riesling. If you want world-class sweet wines, there’s Sauternes in Bordeaux. And if you’re after something sparkling, Champagne is the last word in top-notch fizz.
A total of 20 judges helped to pick this selection. Chairing the group was John Hoskins MW, and he was joined by some of the finest palates in the business, including Master Sommeliers Isa Bal, Nicolas Clerc and Stefan Neumann, as well as four-time UK Sommelier of the Year Jan Konetzki. Also among the panel were Masters of Wine Sarah Knowles, Beverly Tabbron, David Round and Alistair Cooper.
The judges’ choices are a showcase of what France has to offer in 2021, and all are exceptional examples of their region. We hope your enjoy our alternative Tour de France…
The 15 best French wines 2021
- Les Domaines Paul Mas, Château de Crès Ricards Stécia 2019. Terrasses Du Larzac, Languedoc-Roussillon; 96/100
- Rare, Brut 1998. Champagne; 95/100
- Tesco Finest, Signargues 2020. Côtes Du Rhône Villages, Rhône; 95/100
- Château Fortia, Secret Des Terres 2017. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône; 95/100
- Hértiers Gambert Cave de Tain, Nobles Rives 2017. Hermitage, Rhône; 93/100
- Gérard Bertrand, Château de Villemajou Grand Vin 2019. Corbières Boutenac, Languedoc-Roussillon; 93/100
- Albert Bichot, Domaine Du Pavillon Clos Des Ursulines 2019. Pommard, Burgundy; 92/100
- Gabriel Meffre, Saint Siffrein 2020. Côtes Du Rhône Villages, Rhône; 92/100
- Jean Colin, Sancerre 2020. Sancerre, Loire; 91/100
- Edouard Delaunay, Le Village 2019. Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy; 91/100
- Boutinot 2020. Chiroubles, Beaujolais; 91/100
- Domaine Tariquet, Amplitude 2020. Côtes De Gascogne; 91/100
- Domaine Roblin, Les Côtes 2020. Sancerre, Loire; 90/100
- Henry Fessy 2019. Régnié, Beaujolais; 90/100
- Château Suduiraut, Waitrose No 1 2013. Sauternes, Bordeaux; 90/100
How do we judge these wines?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
How do we score these wines?
Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
More from Club Oenologique
Club O is an exclusive community and the go-to platform for wine and spirit lovers. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors. Based in London, our editorial team tells informative, inspirational stories from the world of wine and spirits, gastronomy and travel, as well as covering recommendations and the latest trends in drink. You can take a look at our Explained series, for instance, where we’re tackling grape varieties, regions and styles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, visit our Ask the Sommelier section, where experts answer your wine-related questions.