Grab a glass and let’s toast off a very friendly matchup of 14 wines broken into seven France vs. USA duos. To make things interesting, we’ve paired up similar grapes and blends in contrasting styles. France brings old-world panache responsible for introducing many of the varietals that we so cherish today. While the relative newcomer, the U.S. craft has grown into a true contender.
Tasting these wines side by side is a great way to appreciate all of the variables that go into crafting a delicious bottle. When you’re ready to pour, sip, savor and take a few notes with friends, head to your Whole Foods Market’s Wine department and stock up. If your local store opens in a new tab has a wine bar, you can even order a glass for a sneak peek before you buy.
Wine Tasting Tips
Invite your friends over for a different kind of gathering. Put your flavor-note-detection skills to the test, or simply sit back and share some laughs between clinks. Our Global Wine Buyer, Katherine Wallace, shares a few pointers below.
Know the difference between drinking and tasting: To really get the most out of the experience, a few easy wine-tasting basics can help. Wine is all about engaging the senses. Let’s start with sight. Pour a small sample, then hold to the light to get color clues as to what style to expect. Swirl your glass with a little wrist action to help aerate the wine and open it up (for older wines, consider decanting). Next, tilt the glass and draw short inhalations from your nose and out the mouth, noting aromas. And finally, the main event. Let your tongue do some detecting before putting the wine into words.
Prep ahead: It’s the little things that really upgrade the experience. Consider offering both sparkling and flat water. Don’t forget to build your cheese board to snack on in-between sets. As for glassware, unless you’re going ultrafancy, don’t sweat varietal-specific glasses. Simple, universal, with a stem or without — it all works just fine.
Keep it accessible for newbies: There are many different ways to enjoy wine with friends. Hosting a tasting doesn't need to be an academic endeavor — it can be as casual as you please.
Less is more: Don’t overwhelm your guests with too many options. There’s a method to the madness. A series of whites, sparklings and heavy reds all in the same series can induce palate fatigue. Start with the lightest options and work your way toward full-bodied, more tannic wines.
Drink what you love: Life is too short to finish a glass that doesn’t appeal to you. And there’s no shame in discreetly spitting into a designated receptacle (hey, if it’s completely appropriate at the best wineries in the world, it’s going to fly at your dining room table).
Branch out: Once you’ve dialed in the varietals and regions you tend to gravitate toward, you have the foundation for seeking out new bottle explorations that retain some common characteristics — branching out from the core of proven faves.
Get in the mindset: Think of grapes as a canvas — the terroir, the soil and climate in which they’re grown play a big part in defining the end result, along with the winemaker’s preferences. That includes decisions like when the grapes are harvested, what kind of barrels are used in the ageing process and much more. Do you lean brighter and zestier, or elegant and creamy? Or maybe there’s love for both. Let’s find out!
Duo 1: Sparkling White Wines
Bright and zesty or elegant and creamy? Let’s start the journey toward your perfect pour.
Field Recordings Salad Days
Like spinning your favorite rock record.
Grapes: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard
Tasting notes: Bright apple, pear and lemon zest. Refreshing blend made with organic grapes aged in stainless steel barrels.
De Chanceny Brut Vouvray Excellence
Like a perfectly curated jazz playlist.
Location: Loire Valley
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc
Tasting notes: Elegant bubbles, toasted almond, dried fruit and hazelnut, and a long, creamy finish. Aged a minimum of 24 months before disgorging.
Duo 2: Sauvignon Blanc Wines
Bright and balanced, or dry and crisp? Sauvignon blanc has many expressions. For best results, we recommend you serve these wines cold, between 50 and 55°F.
Honig Sauvignon Blanc
Like a perfectly worn-in jean jacket.
Location: Rutherford, California
Tasting notes: Bright and well balanced with layers of citrus and stone fruits. Family owned since 1980. Try with light pastas or creamy cheeses. Certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Association, committed to practicing sustainable agriculture.
Le Chant de la Vigne Pouilly-Fumé
Like a perfectly tied neckerchief.
Location: Val de Loire, France
Tasting notes: Grown on flint and limestone, elegantly dry with crisp aromas of fresh citrus fruit. Ideal as an aperitive, with cheese, shellfish, seafood, chilled salads or fried chicken.
Duo 3: Chenin Blanc Wines
Lemon zest and tropical fruit, or white flowers and a zing of ginger?
Three by Wade Chenin Blanc
Like an evening shooting hoops out back.
Location: Clarksburg AVA, California
Tasting notes: Refreshing acidity and texture with zesty lemon, tropical fruits and flowers. Recognize the name? This label was founded by NBA legend and entrepreneur Dwayne Wade in collaboration with Napa royalty, the Pahlmeyer family.
Domaine Pichot Vouvray
Like an afternoon of croquet on the lawn.
Location: Vouvray, France
Tasting notes: Pairs exquisitely with rich food. Notes of white flowers, pear and ginger. Pleasing weight is offset by great acidity. Made in a mix of stainless and wooden vats.
Duo 4: Chardonnay Wines
Vanilla bean and oak, or citrus and honey?
Bread & Butter Chardonnay
Like a backyard hangout.
Tasting notes: Vanilla bean, almond and tropical fruits are complemented by a savory oak and smooth finish. The grapes are sourced from the Northern Interior and Central Coast regions of California.
Cave de Lugny Vieille Réserve
Like a cozy soirée.
Location: Mâcon-Villages, France
Tasting notes: Citrus, white flowers and honey with a rich, rounded mouthfeel and refreshing minerality. The average age of the vines used in production of this classic example of the style — 30 years.
Duo 5: Red Blend Wines
Cherry and blackberry, or something silky with a hint of licorice?
Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant
Like a box-office hit.
Location: Central Coast, California
Grapes: Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah
Tasting notes: Aged in French oak and stainless barrels. Notes of rich kirsch, red currant and juicy blackberry. Among the first to popularize Rhône varietals in California!
Cave de Rasteau Peyrières Rasteau
Like an indie arthouse film.
Location: Rhône, France
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre
Tasting notes: Deep ruby color with red fruits, spices and licorice aromas. On the palate, round and full with silky tannins and a long finish. A stellar value, hand harvested and made by a family cooperative.
Duo 6: Pinot Noir Wines
Spice and vanilla, or full-bodied with ripe fruit? Yes to both, please.
Cloudveil Pinot Noir
Like abstract art in a glass.
Location: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Tasting notes: Wild raspberry, Bing cherry, cranberry and pomegranate lead into delicate spice notes, vanilla and a touch of oak. Pair with coho salmon or goat cheese–stuffed portobello mushrooms.
Ardèche Pinot Noir
Like an impressionist masterpiece.
Location: Buis d’Aps, France
Tasting notes: Rustic yet elegant in style with spicy, savory notes. Full-bodied and round with ripe fruit and fine spice notes. This cuvée follows strict rules that are applied with consistency: limited yields, handpicking and partial oak barrel aging.
Duo 7: Cabernet Sauvignon Wines
Juicy and brooding, or smooth and earthy? There’s no wrong answer here.
BOLD Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon
Like a juicy novel.
Location: Paso Robles, California
Tasting notes: Wild huckleberry, blue plum, raw cocoa, cedar and refined tannins. Traditional wine-making techniques make for a luscious bottle by acclaimed Master Sommelier turned winemaker, Chris Miller.
Globerati Cabernet Sauvignon
Like romantic poetry.
Tasting notes: Easy drinking with a smooth medium-body bursting with juicy black currant and earthy pepper spice. Try alongside Toscano ragù and homemade ravioli or barbecued burgers.
Must be 21+. Please drink responsibly.