Guide to French Vodka

France has a long and deeply entrenched history in the making of fine wines and spirits, including Bordeaux wine, Cognac, and Champagne, just to name a few.

Whilst more widely known for these categories of liquor, the French burst onto the vodka scene largely thanks to the launch of Grey Goose, which began operations in the 1990s through the pioneering work of American businessman Sidney Frank.

For more on his story, read this article, which explores more into the amazing journey of the Grey Goose brand.

After the success of this brand, other distilleries and brands have followed in its footsteps, seeking to emulate its achievements.

Similar to almost all other French liquor categories, French vodka typically enjoys a strong reputation as one of the most premium examples of vodka available on the market, and French distilleries have enjoyed much success over the last couple of decades in markets such as America, and more recently, China, based on this prestigious market reputation.

Although bottles of French vodka are also made from a variety of organic products traditionally used to make vodka, including wheat, barley, or potatoes, French distillers are perhaps most famous for their use of grapes.

The utilisation of grapes as the base ingredient in which to make vodka means that French vodka enjoys a uniqueness of flavour and texture that is not replicated elsewhere.

Flavours can range from slightly sweet with subtle flavours of berries to very delicate, flavourless, and clean.

The diversity and high quality with which the French make their vodka means it is one of the best places to look when trying to find lighter style vodkas that are gentler, more delicately flavoured, and less robust than many of their Eastern European counterparts.

Map of French Vodka Distilleries & Brands

French Vodka Distilleries Map

By far the most successful French vodka brand is the world-renowned Grey Goose vodka, now owned and produced by the large global liquor company Bacardi.

Since launching in the 1990s, the brand has succeeded in effectively setting the standard by which all bottles of premium vodka are held by.

Made in the French Cognac producing region in the South West of France, Grey Goose vodka is made from wheat and is characteristically smooth, clean, and creamy in taste and texture thanks, in part, to the use of winter wheat, which is more flavourful than wheat grown in summer.

Following closely after Grey Goose in the list of premium French vodkas is Cîroc, which ferments the juices extracted from “snap-frost” grapes to produce their vodka.

The resulting product is known for its clean taste and crisp, slightly citric flavour profile and is the flagship vodka owned by the global liquor conglomerate Diageo.

Although these two brands represent the biggest examples of premium French vodkas globally, a swathe of other premium French vodka brands have emerged, including Pyla and Jean-Marc X.O., with both of these being distilled from wheat grown in France that has undergone multiple distillations to guarantee smoothness.

As more French distilleries decide to enter the vodka market we can expect to see an increase in the number of premium French vodka products available for purchase, setting France on a course to satisfy our demand for high quality vodka products well into the future.

Pairing Food with French Vodka

Continuing their reputation for producing some of the most premium examples of wine and spirits available on the market, French distilleries produce vodka that should ideally be consumed on its own rather than blended away inside of a cocktail or mixed drink.

Premium French brands, such as Cîroc, Grey Goose, and Pyla can be drunk neat or over ice and served either at room temperature or placed in the freezer and served well chilled.

Placing vodka, or any spirit for that matter, into the freezer before serving has the effect of increasing the viscosity, or texture, of the resulting spirit and also softens the intensity of any flavours present.

In order to fully appreciate some of the more nuanced and delicate flavours present in high-end vodkas, it is not recommended to chill these before serving, with this instead being reserved for lower quality spirits that, if forced to drink neat, can be made more bearable by chilling them.

Although most are thoroughly enjoyable on their own, French vodka can be used as an alcoholic base for some of the most luxurious cocktails, including the Libertine, the French 21, or the Pépa, the last of which combines fine French Cognac with premium French vodka for a truly rich flavour experience.

Whether you’re looking to explore the intricately delicate flavours that exist within fine vodka or seeking to find a vodka to use as a base in premium cocktails, French vodka brings much to the table in both respects thanks to the typical French distillers focus on quality and attention to detail.

To discover alternative methods of trying French vodka, begin with this article, which explores some of the best tried and true methods of enjoying this wonderful drink.

Pairing Food with French Vodka

As French vodka can be extremely delicate in its flavour profile, particularly in the case of those made from grape being somewhat sweet, fruity, or citric in taste and with a clean finish, they can easily be matched with a variety of foods and dishes.

Common food pairing options in France include salted or smoked meats or fish, as the heat and freshness from the vodka can be complemented well by the intensity of flavour present in these dishes.

Some other kinds of meat, caviar and other seafood dishes also work well, as the often citric flavours present in vodka match with many seafood-based dishes.

Finally, pickled vegetables should also be considered, as the salty and vinegary flavours of these foods pairs wonderfully with the fresh, clean, sweet or spicy flavours present in many French vodkas.

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