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How to Buy Wine in Paris: 5 Quick Tips

Posted July 30, 2014 by

France is famous for many things, but perhaps it is most famous for its vast offerings of wine – from every vintage reds to the purest whites, France’s wines are sure to entice.

If you are not fluent in French, however, ordering the perfect bottle (or two!) can be daunting. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

1) Try that house wine. Most every restaurant in France will offer a red (rouge), white (blanc) or rose wine as its ‘house wine’ (vin de maison). While we might shudder at the thought of ordering a carafe of house wine in a US restaurant, French house wine might be some of the best you have during your entire trip. Why? The French are all (practically) sommeliers, and they would not bother to produce a bad house wine, because they know that most of their discerning guests would not bother to order it. Also, house wine is usually cheaper than bottled water or even a Coke. So go ahead, and order that house red or white without fear!

2) Know your grapes. In the US, we are used to looking at a bottle of wine, and based on the type of wine, knowing what kind of grape it is made with. Not so with French labels. Although French labels say what region the bottle is from, you have to dig a little deeper to understand what grape is used. Syrah, for example, is a Rhone wine. Wines made with Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes are called Bordeaux in France. For a Chardonnay, look for a white Burgundy bottle while a red Burgundy will net you a Pinot Noir. Guide to Buying Wine in Paris

3) Label winners. Here are a few key words to look for when you are searching through local bottles. “Gran cru classe” is the highest rating for a wine, officially recognized by a 3rd party. “Gran Vin” is a wineries absolute best regional wine, although it is self-designated so it might not match your palette. Next is a “Premier Cru”, which is still considered very good, but not the Gran Vin.

4) Price is important. But not that important. It is well known that you can spend thousands of euros on a bottle of French wine, but you can also spend €10 or €20 and get a great bottle from a great vintage. Trust your gut, and in a ‘worse’ case scenario, by two different bottles and see which one you prefer.

5) Ask. Even supermarkets in France have a dedicated wine person working in that area of the . Simply ask what s/he recommends based on your upcoming meal and budget. If you are in a local wine shop, they staff should be readily available, and interested in helping you pick their best offerings. While the language barrier may be a challenge, it never hurts to ask.

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