In America, we celebrate the declaration of our independence from British rule on July Fourth. In France, citizens’ commitment to freedom is observed on July 14, Bastille Day, a national holiday.
Known as La Fête Nationale in France, it commemorates the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. The Bastille was a notorious prison that was the symbol of the total and arbitrary power of King Louis’ Ancien Regime.
This protest sparked a movement that grew into a national uprising known as the French Revolution. Upon seizing the Bastille, the people declared that the king’s power was no longer absolute.
Today, the French recognize Bastille Day as the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the modern republic. The lasting significance of the event was in its recognition that power could be held by ordinary citizens, not the king. The battle cry of the revolution, “Liberty, equality, fraternity,” eventually became France’s motto.
While the French celebrate the anniversary of their independence much the same way that we do in America, with parades, fireworks, concerts and parties, I would suggest that we can do our share to pay homage to freedom in France — and around the world — with a glass or two of French wine. Viva la France!
I enjoy starting off every celebration with a glass of sparkling wine. And of course, on Bastille Day, the bubbles naturally must come from Champagne. Non-Vintage Taittinger La Francaise Brut is a wonderful way to declare your independence. Made from a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and Pinot Meunier, this dry bubbly features flavors of baked brioche, Granny Smith and Gala apples and just a touch of zesty citrus. Notes of lemon zest and wet stone are carried across the finish by precise bubbles. $40
The French know a thing or two about rosé wines, having been given credit for making some of the best versions of this pink beauty in the world. Rose wines are a good choice when you’re trying to keep cool on a hot day. The 2018 E. Guigal 2018 Rosé from the Côtes de Rhône region is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. The delicate nose offers up aromas of strawberry and red berry fruit on the bouquet and charming flavors of raspberry, watermelon and strawberry pie in the mouth. Bright red currents highlight the refreshing finish. Pairs well with burgers, grilled salmon and roast chicken. $15
There is a lot of wine to love from the Loire Valley of France due to it diverse grape-growing regions. My favorite is the Sancerre appellation, which lies on the left bank of the Loire River and is where the sauvignon blanc grape reigns supreme. The beautifully named 2018 Gitton Silex Les Belles Dames Sancerre is the perfect summertime thirst quencher. Scents of lime and grapefruit dominate the nose with an added pop of minerality. Flavors of green apple, ripe pear and green melon are bolstered on the palate by tangy acidity. Notes of wet stone round out the long refreshing finish. Perfect for summer fare such as salads, ceviche and grilled fish. $30
Not all Bordeaux wines have to be outrageously expensive. There are a few gems that deliver power and finesse at a price somewhere between a bargain and a splurge. The 2016 Château Garraud Lalande de Pomerol from the Lalande-de-Pomerol appellation is one such wine. A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, it is a forward red wine with scents of red cherry, cranberry and sweet oak in the nose. Rich and dense, notes of blackberry, plum and dark cherry are nicely integrated with the dry tannins, keeping the fruit focused all the way through the medium finish. Remarkably enjoyable and fun to drink now or can be set aside for four or five years. $28
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