The idea of tackling France—the accents and the growing regions and the different vintages—can feel like a vast, unmanageable task for anyone who wants to start learning about wine. But even the most seasoned wine professionals sometime mispronounce words, so you shouldn't worry. Today's guide will help you get a little more comfortable in the French section of your local wine shop.
'France' on Serious Eats
This acid-driven white wine grape has been at it for over 500 years, and has changed gears, reinvented itself and worn any number of hats. Its future looks bright—and long.
It's an exciting time for cocktails in France: the current crowd has developed a more adventurous mindset when it comes to drinks, and bars are responding with ever-more interesting (and delicious) ways to quench your cocktail cravings. Here's our guide to the best cocktail bars in Paris, old and new.
To many American drinkers, Provence is synonymous with wine, but this romantic region of Southern France holds so much more, from sweet black currant liqueur drinks to complex grape brandy. It's not that you shouldn't lap up the local rosés with your duck breast salad, but when you're on vacation in Southern France, there's so much more to tempt you into a mid-afternoon aperitif beyond the bottles that regularly make it across the pond.
A tiki bar is probably not the first thing you think of when imagining Paris drinking destinations, but then again, where would faux-Polynesian seem like the logical theme for a watering hole? The Dirty Dick opened this February, replacing a "hostess bar" (read: brothel) in Pigalle, a neighborhood in transition from red-light district to trendy cocktailing destination.
Following up last month's post on greater waves in the Parisian coffee scene, we offer this guide to some of the best spots to drink quality coffee when in lovely Paris in the spring (or any time of year).
Paris has very few things about it that inspire pity, and until recently, coffee was one of them. What a travesty of taste that in a place where the sidewalk cafe and all its attendant idle pursuits have been perfected, what's inside the cup has been, until recently, so very poor. The enlightenment's come, however.
There's got to be room for a beer in even this city of wine, wine, and wine. As French brewers slowly join the legion of specialty craft beer makers crawling across Europe, Paris at last has an emphatic entrant in the beer destination category in La Fine Mousse. La Fine Mousse is a uniquely French-brewer focused, craft-focused gem of a beer bar in the 11th arrondissement.
In Pomerol, Fronsac, Saint-Emilion, the wines are almost exclusively merlot-based blends, which grow well in the clay soil that dominates the region. Plateaus of limestone and patches of sand scattered throughout the vineyards allow for modest growth of other grapes which lend structure and personality to the merlot with which they are blended. Unlike Left Bank wines, which are dominated by tannic cabernet sauvignon that's built to age and meant to sit for years in a cellar, these merlot-based wines are lower in tannins and acid, which gives them incredible versatility.
Back in 2009, Eric Asimov wrote about the overall improvement of Languedoc wines over the last 25 years or so, stating that "In a tasting... of 20 bottles of red from the Languedoc, the wine panel found them still to be all over the place stylistically. But the level of high quality in the winemaking was unexpectedly consistent." After tasting well over 100 wines in the course of a week on a recent tour through the region by the Le Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc (check out this post for some snapshots and highlights), I can wholeheartedly agree with him, though I did manage to pick out some personal favorites.
Last month I went on a whirlwind wine tasting trip in Languedoc, the Southeastern section of France that hugs the Mediterranean. Before the trip, if I were to have judged from the amount of Languedoc wines I see in the U.S., I would have guessed Languedoc to be, say, around 4 to 5% of the total wine production of France. I would have been wrong. Indeed, coming in at a full 30% of France's production, Languedoc is the most prolific wine-producing region not just in France, but in the entire world.
Seriously chalky soil is part of what makes the Cote des Blancs region in Champagne famous for its chardonnay. We recently tasted two blanc de blancs (all-chardonnay) Champagnes from this region: one from Perrot-Batteux et Filles, and the other from Pierre Gimmonet. These wines launch our explorations of grower Champagnes: wines made by small producers—the families who grow the grapes. Think of it like microbrewed beer, except the independent microbrewer also happens to be a hop grower and malt-producer. Well, maybe it's not a perfect metaphor...
Muscadet, which is made exclusively from Melon de Bourgogne grapes, usually hails from the western side of the Loire region in France. Grapes grown from this cool climate region offer deliciously fresh-tasting acidity. Why does the climate matter? Glad you asked...
With its deep, amber hue and aggressive carbonation, it's easy to spot a French cider amongst its Spanish or British cousins. Full bodied, sweeter French ciders work well with cream-based sauces, while the drier, more champagne-like ciders can elevate flaky fish. Here are a few of our favorite French ciders.
On my recent trip to Jura, France, sponsored by the The Comté Cheese Association (thanks cheese guys!), we made a stop for dinner at the Bistrot de Pontarlier in Port Lesney. As it turns out, Pontarlier is home to one of the most important absinthe distilleries in the world. Distillery François Guy still produces its wormwood and Spanish green anise-scented concoction from the original Belle Époque recipe.
Here in the States, you can get straight up Orangina and the relatively new Orangina Rouge, but on my recent trip to France, I found a couple flavors that we don't have here, and was pleasantly surprised by'em.
For Sauvignon Blanc from France, you gotta know an AOC or two. We sampled some Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé to get you on your way.