France is the world’s second largest producer of wines (barely edged out most years by Italy), most of which comes from big-name regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone. But tucked within bigger appellations are small villages, some known, and some not so known. St. Julien, Pomerol and Montrachet are such villages, but so are Bergerac, Chinon, St. Chinian, Cahors, Madiran, Cotes de Castillon, Cadillac and hundreds of others.

These villages often use noble grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in their wines, but they’re also known for incorporating less common ones like Tannat, Gamay (used notably in Beaujolais), Grenache and Semillon.

The wines uniquely reflect their terroir (the combination of climate, soil and technique that gives wine a particular personality), with formulations arrived at after hundreds of years of experience. Because they are not well known, they are often much cheaper than their famous cousins, but with equivalent quality.

Recently, a new generation of wine makers have begun marrying new production techniques with old experience. The vision shown by these wine makers often results in wine that is fresher, more intense and travels better, so it’s a bit of combining the best of the old with the best of the new.

Try a few for yourself at the DWO’s January 31 Wine Down Wednesday which will feature a wide variety of French village wines.

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