Nowadays. all the better French wines are imported and delightful sensations may be recaptured or discovered at the dinner table at home and in restaurants throughout the world. As our taste for fine cuisine develops, our appreciation of fine wine increases. As our standard of living reaches higher levels, what was at one time the privilege of a few discriminating and wealthy connoisseurs is becoming a source of enjoyment for all.
Wines imported from France are no longer reserved for the wealthier group. They may be purchased everywhere at reasonable prices and are one of the less expensive luxuries. French wine lends an aura of glamour and sophistication to a fine meal and enhances the flavor of good food.
Speaking about French wine, Hemingway wrote in “Death In The Afternoon” (Scribner) –
“Wine is one of French wine is part of the art of living in France… along with French bread, the most civilized things in the world and one of the natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than possibly any other purely sensory thing which may be purchased.
One can learn about wines and pursue the education all of a lifetime, the palate becoming more educated and capable of appreciation and you having constantly increasing enjoyment and appreciation of wine.”
If one dared to add anything at all to a sentence written by a great writer, the words: “and appreciation of food” should be added.
Good wine is good in itself. A light French wine is a delightful aperitif. With soda water (with or without fruit) it makes refreshing coolers and superb bowls or punch. Champagne, and other sparkling wines are, of course often drunk for themselves, without any accompaniment of food.
However, it is with meals that most wines are really at their best and it is with French wine that a good meal is truly magnificent. It is the pride of the host (or the hostess) to select a wine which will be exciting, will enhance the dishes and will be a “conversation piece” at the table. It is the easiest thing in the world to select the right French wine.
The geographical configuration of France, its climate, the tradition of its people have all contributed to making French wines unique in their variety.
Among this tremendous variety of tastes, degrees of greatness and prices, there are always many wines to compliment each particular dish. So the first question which arises is “which wine to select?” Once the wine has been selected, “how to serve it?”
Any reason at all for selecting a particular French wine is a good reason. Drinking a fine wine is a pleasure and the worst possible mistake is to turn such an enjoyable experience into a strictly regulated protocol. Any good wine you like is the proper wine for you.
However, we have to learn what we like. We don’t know before trying. We also want our family and guests to fully enjoy their meal and we cannot always know, or guess, if they will share in our pleasure in drinking a particular wine with a certain food.
Generations and generations of gourmets, wine-lovers and wine-experts, each one with his individual and sometimes unorthodox taste, have agreed that there are certain marriages of food and wine which are pleasant to everyone. The “marriages” which meet with general approval are the following ones. When in doubt, it is wise to abide by them.
If we follow the classic rules devised by many generations of experts, this does not mean we must turn our backs on the search for new combinations and novel contrasts in flavour. The golden rule is to aim for dishes and wines which will enhance each other to mutual advantage, without undermining each other’s individual flavours.
The harmony of flavours is like harmonies in colour or music – different wines at a meal should always be served in an order which builds to a “crescendo”, from the lightest to the most full-bodied:
Water, not wine, should be drunk with any dish seasoned with vinegar, salads, oranges and chocolate puddings. The bottle we are drinking must not make us regret the one we have just drunk.
The Science of Blending Food and French Wines –
This is certainly a subtle one, but the basics can be mastered by anybody. It would be a pity to deprive oneself of the pleasures it can offer.
With fish, oysters, crab, lobster or shellfish, serve: Dry white wines, light sparkling wines, extra dry champagne.
With entrées and hors d’oeuvre: Dry or semi-dry white wines, rosé wines.
With white meats such as veal, lamb or pork and with poultry serve: A full-bodied red wine with a good bouquet.
With red meats such as mutton and beef: A full-bodied red wine, powerful and generous.
With game: As above, but keep the ore delicate, elegant wines for game-birds and the heavier wines for other game.
With foie gras: A dry or mellow white wine of elegance.
Soft cheeses with a flowery rind, such as Brie, Camembert, Carré de l’Est: Light red wines
Soft cheeses with washed rind, such as Pont l’Eveque, Maroilles, Livarot: Full-bodied red wines
Semi-hard cheeses, such as Saint-Paulin, Saint-Nectaire, Cantal: White, rosé or red wines, light and dry
Hard cheeses, such as Beaufort, Comté, Emmental: Dry white or rosé wines
Veined cheeses, such as blue cheeses, Roquefort, Fourme d’Amber: Full-bodied red wines, mellow or naturally sweet white wines, fortified wines
Processed cheeses: White or rosé, light and dry wines
Goat and fresh cream cheeses: Dry white and rosé wines or light and fruity red wines
With sweet courses: Sparkling wines, semi-dry champagne, mellow wines, natural sweet wines.
With fruit: Mellow white wines, semi-dry champagne, natural sweet wines.
Champagne alone may be drunk throughout the meal, but real gastronomic achievement calls for the full range and variety offered by the Wines of France.
Brandies from Cognac or Armagnac, fruit-based spirits, the famous French liqueurs.
Champagne and rosé are good with all kinds of food. However, perfectionists who recognize that Champagne or rosé is always proper, show their ignorance by frowning upon the serving of white wine with certain dishes.
For the non-perfectionists, but true “connoisseurs”, a French dry white wine is always acceptable when served all during a meal, as Champagne and rosé sometimes are.
How to serve French wine:
Only great and old wines need special handling. If the bottle contains sediment (which is a mark of old age. and far from being harmful to the wine, it is rather a sign of greatness) then it should rest after transportation and be left standing upright for a day or two, until the sediment has dropped to the bottom of the bottle. Use a Decanter to add to the enjoyment of preparing and presenting French Wine.
You have just chosen a bottle form your wine-rack to offer your guests. The bottle will have been resting quietly, out of the daylight and at a constant temperature of 10-12° for several days (especially in the case of a great red wine). If there is no visible deposit in the bottle, there is no need to use a serving basket.
No special science is required to appreciate a good thing. Tasting French wines is always an enjoyable experiment. but a little knowledge helps one to get the most out of it.
Wine has been known for thousands of years in all the Mediterranean countries, but France is a country where the growing of vines and the making and appreciation of wine, have been considered as an art for more than 2.000 years and have become part of the civilization.
French Vintage wine:
Wines may be classified by the year in which the grapes are harvested. “Vintage wines” are made from grapes of a single year’s harvest, and are accordingly dated. These wines often improve in flavor as they age, and wine enthusiasts will occasionally save bottles of a favorite vintage wine for future consumption.
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