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How to choose your wine in a French restaurant

  - June 29, 2015

In most French restaurants, the wine list is categorised by French wine regions : the Loire valley, Burgundy, the Rhône valley, Bordeaux etc…

Depending on the kind and style of wine you are looking for, knowing the basics of these different regions would be a great help. You will find below a few situations you might come across and some recommendations.

Looking for a bottle of wine that will please the whole table ? What to choose if your guests are enjoying different dishes : fish, pastas, chicken, beef, salads… and you want a single bottle of wine for everybody? We would recommend a light and fruity red with low tannins. The wines from Beaujolais and Burgundy regions are our best options. Red Beaujolais is made with the Gamay variety of grape and red Burgundy wines from the Pinot noir grape. They go with almost anything including delicate dishes like fish.

Looking for a bottle of red Bordeaux on the wine list? For a recent vintage (2-4 years old), select a bottle from the Bordeaux right-bank, whose wines have a majority of merlot and are easier to drink young: a Saint-Emilion would be a good option. Bordeaux left-bank wines from the Médoc region are made with a majority of cabernet sauvignon grapes. They age beautifully  and a few years will help soften their high levels of tannin. A menu suggestion: order a rare red meat like a medium-rare steack or a « magret de canard » (duck breast). Tannins and rare red meats match perfectly together.

Looking for a bottle to pair wine and cheese ? Why not try a white wine from the Loire valley : a dry or semi-dry Chenin blanc is one of our best options. Avoid young reds from Bordeaux, whose tannins will enhance the salty flavours of most cheeses.

In premium restaurants, a sommelier is definitely the best person to help you choose your wine. Just tell him the style of wine you want and what your budget is. Depending on the food you are ordering, he will select for you the best wine !

Regarding wine prices, keep in mind that most French restaurants make most of their profits from selling bottles of wine. Therefore, a great bottle of wine is never cheap. You might notice this especially during your Paris vacation. For a 30- to 50-euro bottle, dividing the price by 3 will give you an idea of what you would probably pay in a French wine shop for the same bottle.

Another point to be mentioned: the older the wine is, the more expensive it will be on the list.

Finally, an increasing number of restaurants are now equipped with machines that keep bottles open for a long time. These restaurants usually have a nice (an excellent) list of French wines « by the glass ». Yet another way of finding the best wine for you!

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