Written by Destination Luxury Sommelier Specialist, Dan McCollister
The gold standard in fine wine is and has always been France. Not only is France the leading exporter of wine in the world, it is home to the world’s greatest wines and wineries. When Robert Mondavi wanted to put the US on the world map for great wines, he went to France for inspiration. When Australia’s greatest winery, Penfolds wanted to improve themselves, they too turned to the French. The story is the same the world over.
I am constantly asked what my top French wines are. It’s easy to rattle off the French first growths, Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Haut Brion and Mouton, and yes, they are all Great wines. My favorites go a little deeper in France, its wines, culture and style. Here are my personal Top 5. Remember, favorite wines are like political opinions. Everyone has one and everyone has a different opinion.
This is the oldest single family owned vineyard in the Bordeaux region of France. Purchased in 1826 by Hugh Barton it is still owned and run by the Barton family today. We all have that epiphany wine: the one sip from that one wine that makes us realize what great wine is and should taste like. Mine was a 2010 Chateau Leoville Barton. I’ve had LB wines as old as 1961 and believe me when I tell you, they are a true world class wine.
Grape for grape, this is the most expensive wine in the world. Most offerings start around $5,000 a bottle and that’s only if you’re lucky enough to be on their very small and very exclusive private client list. If you’re not, and most aren’t, you’ll have to start around $10,000 a bottle. First and foremost, if you LOVE wine, it’s worth it. It really is that good. I am not a Pinot noir drinker, and DRC is Pinot, but not your ordinary one; it truly is the standard to which ALL other Pinot noir producers gauge themselves. Dating back to 1232, when Monks first planted vines, it is one of the oldest vineyards in the world. It is said to be situated in the perfect growing position on the planet for Pinot noir, with of course, the perfect soil. I will admit, to drink it is quite heavenly.
Some consider Petrus to be the perfect example of the Merlot grape. Made from only 100% Merlot, Petrus truly is one of the finest wines in the world. Grown in Pomerol, France, it is also one of the most expensive and sought after wines. Owned today by the Moueix family, Petrus enjoys status as a premier wine of the world.
The Chave family can trace its history in Hermitage, France back over 5 centuries, to 1481 when they began making wine in the region. With the Syrah grape as the backbone for their blended red wine, they are a truly one of the great wines of France. Like the other wines on the list, they are one of the producers that other wineries of the world look to, to define what a great Syrah wine really is. The Chave family is truly wine royalty.
You can’t have a top 5 list without bubbles on it! My favorite champagne house is definitely Veuve Clicquot. Often referred to as “The Widow” because it was made famous the world over by the late Madam Clicquot, who took over the winery when her husband passed away. Only this didn’t happen recently; this occurred back 1805. Fun fact: the word ‘veuve’ is French for widow. Call her the grandmother of women’s rights, I cannot imagine what she went through to run and grow a successful business in that time. My favorite from this house is easily their La Grande Dame. Only made in years deemed to be the best vintage, it is truly a wonderful wine.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Destination Luxury Wine Influencer Dan McCollister was born in 1974 in a small town in New Jersey near Philadelphia, PA. At a young age, Dan was exposed to both international travel and wines from around the world by his mother, a wine aficionado in her own right.
McCollister has always enjoyed fine wine and even collected a few bottles until 2012, when he embarked on his second career as a wine collector. He currently has a collection of just over 3,500 bottles, 49% of which is California wine, 34% French, and all from top producers. In 2015, Dan expanded his cellar to a new state of the art 6,000 bottle cellar; at his current pace, of 500 bottles per year, he’ll run out of room before he knows it.
Currently he is a Level 1 Sommelier with the Master Court of Sommeliers and is currently working towards the Certified status. He has passed the Wine and Spirits Trust Level 3 Advanced course with Distinction and is actively seeking other certifications as well.
Dan is married to his and has 4 children. Please follow him on his Instagram.