While I am not 100% sure what you are eating and looking for and am relatively new to bread making myself, I'm going to guess that what it comes down to is a matter of fat content in the bread.
What gets called "French Bread" (in the baguette sense) is usually a mixture of flour, water, salt, and yeast (similar to the recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice). It uses a pre-ferment (usually pâte fermentée, which is itself just flour, water, salt, and yeast) in combination with a mixture of flours to produce the final loaf.
Variations on this (e.g., pain de campagne) which maintain that characteristic texture still basically come down to a mixture of flours, walter, salt, and yeast. These are what can be characterized as lean breads: breads with very little (if any) fat added.
My guess is that most of the "chewy" breads you are encountering have a higher fat content. These are more like what in the US we'd call an "Italian" bread (which is frequently shaped in a similar manner to some french loaves, another example would be breads like Challah bread) all the way up to something like a brioche (which has a very high fat percentage). The fat adds some flavor and can provide a sort of softer mouth feel, which is what I suspect you are picking up on.