Have a Merry Christmas with the perfect French Wine
With France being just across The English Channel, we have access to a wide range of French wine, and what a shame it would be to not make the most of it! Whether you are buying for a wedding, a birthday, or even a picnic, wine can bring that touch of elegance and conviviality to a meal. If you are someone that has already found yourself staring at shelves of wine and not knowing what to buy, here are a few tips that can help you to choose.
Read the label: it can be as simple as that!
If your guests are about to arrive for dinner and you discover that you don’t have any wine in, you can often find yourself running to the supermarket last minute. Above all: don’t panic and pick up any old bottle! You would be much better choosing a wine which has won an award as this is often a sign of quality as well as being a safe choice. Besides the award, any mention of ‘mis en bouteille sur le domaine’ or ‘mis en bouteille en propriété’ means that the wine was bottled on the estate itself and the maturation process has been followed closely by the same person that put the wine in the bottle. Finally ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’ indicates the geographical origin, quality and style of the wine.
However even if you read the label carefully, you will need to know which wine should go with the dish you are about to serve or enjoy…
Choose your wine according to your meal
When choosing which wine to drink with which type of food, you should follow one simple rule: the lighter the dish the lighter the wine. For example, if you are going to be eating a light puff pastry dish, you should go for something like a red Chinon (£10 – £30), which is well known for its subtlety. On the other hand, if you plan on eating a heavy dish such as a homemade stew, you should choose a fruity Beaujolais (£10-£25). Whenever you have any doubts, the label should give you an idea if the wine is light or not.
Red with meat, white with fish
This is another basic rule which you should always respect… well almost, because of course there are a few exceptions.
2. Cheese: Red is more popular when it comes to cheese and your exact choice will depend on the type of cheese. This said, white wine can be great with goat cheese or a creamy cow’s cheese.
3. Foie Gras: If you are going for a 100% French meal, white wine is recommended when you eat foie gras. A Sauternes (£30 – £60) is often an excellent option.
Desserts: Once again, this depends on the dessert. If you plan on impressing your guests with a chocolate cake, you should know that a Maury (£15 – £30) goes very well with chocolate because it is fruity and brings out the delicate taste of the dessert – give it a go! If you don’t want to take any risks, go for champagne as it often pleases everyone at the table and has the advantage of going well with most desserts.
Choose your wine in accordance with the year and the season
One of the most important factors that determines the quality of your wine is sunshine because the sun enhances grapes’ colour and accentuates their aroma. The table below will give you an idea of which years are the best for each French region.
Important: the score a wine receives does not take microclimates, fermented wines or how well grapes were separated during the harvest into account. You can therefore find a very good wine in a ‘bad’ year.
It’s very important to consider the season. In spring or summer, most people go for a light wine, a rosé wine or a subtle red wine such as a Saumur-Champigny (£8 – £30).
Know how to get off the beaten track
Once you are comfortable with wines, you will be able to make up your own rules and go against the traditional ‘white with fish and red with meat’ rule… after all, only you know what gets your taste buds tickling. For a convivial setting, you might buy a Médoc (£20 – £40), however if you start to really appreciate a wine’s quality, go for a good Riesling (around £60) or a Pomerol (£70 – 90)
These few bits of advice should help you to confidently choose your wine when facing the many bottles on the supermarket shelf. Let your eyes wander until you find the bottle that will appeal to your guests. Enjoy!