WASHINGTON — France climbed the FIFA World Cup mountain for the second time in its history, this time beating the underdog team from Croatia 4-2 in the final.
There was a bit of everything in this World Cup match, including a few questionable calls, a goaltending error and the enthusiasm of a teenage phenom. Even the first-time use of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) for penalty calls in a World Cup final was controversial.
But in the end, the day after Bastille Day, the young French team reigned supreme, and the people of France had back-to-back days of celebration.
Regardless of your heritage, or even your allegiance to football (aka: soccer), there is nothing quite like a national holiday or a coveted sports victory to justify a reason to celebrate. So it seems like a good time to trot out the carte des vins and pick out a few French classics that are also sure to be winners.
You can’t spell “celebrate” without Champagne. Well, technically you can, but who cares once you pop the cork on a bottle of Nonvintage Taittinger La Francaise Brut Champagne from the Reims region. Produced using a blend of 40 percent chardonnay, 35 percent pinot noir and 25 percent pinot meunier (of which 30 percent is made up of reserve wines), this wine is a delight to drink. Aromas of baked bread, citrus and ripe pear on the nose are repeated on the palate, where additional flavors of peach and green apple sparkle and shine. The crisp finish has a touch of lemon zest that adds a bright end note. $35
France and Germany may not have faced off on the soccer field in the World Cup this year, but they have definitely had their skirmishes in the vineyards throughout history. The Alsace wine region has bounced back and forth between French and German control, but today it is most assuredly French and home to the deliciously refreshing 2016 Domaine Trimbach Pinot Blanc, a perfect white wine for chilling out. The pretty straw-colored wine has a lovely floral nose that includes scents of nectarines and lemon rind. The crisp flavors of apples, pears and honeyed-citrus are supported by racy acidity, leading to a bright and refreshing finish. $15
If there really is a cup involved with the World Cup, then I would definitely want to fill it up with the 2012 E. Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape from the southern Rhone region of France. A blend of over eight different grapes, including Grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, this is a wine that is sure to score with your palate. It sports a dark cherry red color and a spicy nose of smoked cedar wood and cigar tobacco. The palate is light-styled but offers complex flavors of black cherry, dark plum and notes of saddle leather. The pretty finish is round, soft and memorable, thanks to the smoky notes at the end. $40
Of course, if you really want to celebrate this historic win in style with a big red wine from a historic region, then it has to be from Bordeaux. The Bordeaux appellation is arguably the most legendary wine region in the world, so let the World Cup overflow with the wine that made France famous. The challenge with good Bordeaux is it requires patience. Since some of the more expensive wines can be a study in delayed gratification, it is not my first choice to open when it’s young. Good thing that the 2014 Chateau Kirwan from the Margaux appellation is drinking beautifully now.
It’s a cabernet sauvignon-based wine with additional bits of merlot and cabernet franc blended in to deliver a phenomenal experience. The aromas of bright cherries and red fruit literally leap out of the glass. The mouthfeel is wonderfully supple and elegant, supporting flavors of blackberry, ripe black plums and earthy notes of tobacco. The structure has great balance and the hints of leather round out the supple finish. While it is ready to drink now, it can easily age for another 10-plus years. $45