Cheat-sheet: Our Guide to French WineMarch 23, 2017 10:00 am
Santé! Use our guide to French wine as your cheat-sheet when visiting Paris!
Heading to the French capital? Then you will surely be indulging in a glass or two of vin… But with talk of terroir, appellation, body and regions, how do you choose what to order? Don’t fret! We’ve broken it down in our easy-to-use guide to French wine, from popular wine regions to wine and food pairings, we’ve got you covered. Santé!
Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)
The French are incredibly serious about their wine and the regulations surrounding it are unsurprisingly strict. Unlike the rest of the world which generally classifies wine by the grape, French wine is defined by the regions the grapes were grown in and more specifically, the terroir or quality of conditions they were planted. The AOC (or the Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée) is a system which defines which wines are allowed a particular region classification. It’s also generally known as the AOP in the rest of the EU.
Popular Wine Regions
As one of the most famous French wine regions, Bordeaux is one of the most prolific with thousands of bottles produced a year. Divided by the River Gironde into two different areas, the most popular wines from the Left Bank are earthy Cabernet Sauvignon blends while the Right Bank is best known for its fruitier Merlot blends.
Burgundy, or Borgogne, is best known for its high quality wines and is filled with smaller vineyards (some of which even have their own region classifications). Located in Eastern France, a fantastic bottle of red wine from the centre of Burgundy can cost a pretty penny but will last a good twenty to thirty years. Red wines like Pinot Noir and Beaujolis aren’t the only standouts – Chardonnay is also a popular choice here.
Only wines from this region are allowed to call themselves Champagne and while it’s home to a number of different kinds, it is best known for its sparkling wines. Created through a complex double fermentation process which dates all the way back to the 12th century, high quality sparkling wines from Champagne are more expensive than other kinds named Cremant from the rest of France.
This valley is located in the northwestern part of France and is known for its light, aromatic wines – perfect for a hot summer’s day. Sauvignon Blanc originated here and is befittingly one of its most popular wines, alongside Muscadet and Chenin Blanc. It also produces a wide range of sparkling wines, second only to Champagne.
Wine and Food Pairings
Muscadet, Sancerre, Chardonnay, Chenin, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling
Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Bourgogne
Merlot, Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Bourgogne
Merlot, Syrah, Sauternes
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc
Tips for Visiting a French Wine Bar
- Someone else will come around to pour your wine, so don’t worry about it. However if you really want to pour your own, never pour more than two thirds of the glass.
- Wine bars are a great choice when you’re looking for a meal or snack outside of regular dining hours, as they tend to be open later.
- If you’re going to clink glasses, it’s important to look someone in the eye while doing so and to only clink alcoholic beverages.
- While the occasional ice cube in a glass of rosé on a hot day is acceptable, avoid asking for ice and watering down your wine.
Paris is home to a number of amazing wine tastings for everyone from the novice to the expert. The self-guided tour at Les Caves du Louvre is one of the most atmospheric, located in their historic cellars and hosted by a trained sommelier willing to share some of their best secrets. Running for an hour, guests can take a free bottle home and can even add on a cheese platter to enhance their experience.