When I say the word France, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
Wine of course! And if not, it should be cheese then.
Excellent because that’s exactly what we are going to talk about today.
Believe it or not, but before the 50’s, French students (from primary school through to high school) were encouraged to drink wine, beer and cider… At school!
Nowadays, while our children don’t drink at school, a family dinner never happens without a good bottle of wine.
First question: what makes a good wine?
I can hear you from here… Good or bad is a matter of personal taste. This is true, but a bad wine is a bad wine for everyone (or at least it should be!).
First let’s talk about the balance of the wine.
The balance is, in my opinion, the most important part.
We talk about the balance (l’équilibre in French) between 3 things : the acidity, the tannins, and the sugar. These 3 elements shouldn’t have any single one of them dominant.
The sugar (le sucre): as soon as you start your wine you should start feeling (or not, in some cases) the sweetness of your wine.
Depending on their sweetness, we classify the wines in 3 categories :
-Dry ( sec)
-Sweet wine (moelleux)
Be careful and do not mix up the sweetness and the fruitiness. A small trick, pinch your nose, if you can’t feel the sweetness anymore, you are probably facing a fruity wine and not a sweet wine.
The second element is the acidity (l’acidité).
The acidity is more important in white wine, but it is also present in reds. You can taste the acidity with the sides of your tongue.
Our third element is the tannins (les tanins).
The tannins are natural and you find them in the skin, the seed and the stalk of the grape. (try to bite a seed and you will have a good idea of what the tannins are). You can taste the tannins in the back of your mouth and in your cheeks. This is what gives you the feeling of a dry mouth sometimes.
To make sure that what you are testing is not acidity, check if you feel any salivation (if you do, what you are tasting is actually the acidity).
These are the 3 components of the taste of the wine, but this is not the only thing that matters when you want a good wine.
The length of the wine (la longueur du vin).
Don’t get confused, it is not how long it takes to drink the bottle. It represents how long you will still feel the aroma once you swallow your mouthful.
The depth of the wine (la profondeur du vin).
It means how many different flavors you can taste in your wine, how many “layers” you feel.
The complexity of the wine (la complecité du vin).
It is a mix between the length and the depth. Let’s take an example, if your wine has a long length but a small depth, you will taste one main flavor for a long time. We would call this wine “simple”.
This is how we characterize the wine, but don’t forget, the most important criteria is your own taste.
Now let’s think about what wine to choose?
For example, how do you choose your wine?
You can, for example, choose a wine that you know, then you know what it is like. For advice, you can use phone apps or websites, or you could also ask a specialist.
French people also do this. But we are lucky to have a diversity in our food and in our wines. Usually, if you don’t want to make a mistake when choosing your wine, you have to think about what you’ll pair it with.
Some geography knowledge may be useful.
If you eat a typical Alpes dish, then you can not go wrong by selecting a wine from the same region.
You eat a choucroute (Alsacian dish) the get an Alsacian wine to match
If you eat crepes in Britanny, get the local drink, a cider.
As simple as that.
You will ask me, Yes but what about cheeses?
It is exactly the same thing. Cheese has to be eaten between main and dessert and sometimes you have a dedicated wine to drink with your cheese.
Next time you eat a French cheese, check the region it comes from. Then try to find a wine or a drink from the same region and try them together…
It works without everything. You want something to eat with your cheese from the south-west? Choose the locally produced nuts.
French wine and cheese is a huge and fascinating topic!. This is just an overview of the importance of this food but if you are interested in this products and want to talk about it like a real French person, then you should check out this article about all the vocabulary and the technical terms about the wine… In French of course.