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French wine harvest

Yes, in Paris we drink a LOT of wine, and every once in a while I’m humbled. You may remember that in a past post, I gave a ‘High Five Rating’ to Kristin Espinasse’s French Word-a-Day blog. She and her husband Jean-Marc have taken on the ambitious projects of being winegrowers (in addition to blogging and raising a family . . . are there really that many hours in a day?)

I am once again reminded of all the Blood, Sweat, and Tears that goes into producing an organically grown wine. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that wine is so often associated with religious ritual, but too often in day-to-day life we just take this drink for granted.

Maybe it’s because -for the last two weeks, the Paris Diet has not allowed me a drop of the ambrosia – so picturing Kristin Espinasse and her crew out in the French fields being attacked by knats and brambles to bring in the grape harvest is particularly poignant. Throughout France, the same scene is repeating itself – and soon those grapes will be transformed into the luscious liquid which may eventually find its way to Paris and to our table.

For those of us that are not wine connoisseurs, there’s no reason to be intimidated about ordering wine when you come to Paris. The truth is that many French people are also not connoisseurs, however just about any French man or woman can sniff a bad bottle a mile away. The expression is ‘ca sent du bouchon’ or ‘it smells of the cork’. Pass the bottle under a waitress’s nose, and she’ll be able to tell immediately.

If you’re ordering wine, be sure to ask the sommelier (the wine steward) or the waiter (if you’re in a bistro) which sort of wine will best complement your dish. They are usually more than happy to offer a suggestion. Many bistros are offering wine by the glass these days.

Here are just a few tips (keeping in mind that I’m no wine expert – just a happy participant) –
Big bordeaux wines are usually reserved for the main courses – particularly meat courses like beef or lamp dishes.

The first course – if it’s a fish course or seafood might be best complemented with a chablis, a muscadet, or an Alsatian riesling. (Choucroute i.e. sauerkraut is also a favorite with Alsatian wines).

Cheeses can be tricky – it really depends on the pungent quality of the cheese – for example a Rocquefort might go surprisingly well with a white wine, but normally the cheese course is served with Burgundy wines (or some Bordeaux).

Sauternes can go well with many desserts (especially chocolate cakes!) and likewise a foie gras appetizer can be served with Loupiac or a Coteaux de Layon semi-sweet wine.

Skip drinking wine with the salad course if the salad has an especially strong vinaigrette dressing. (that way you save more of the wine for the main course if you can only afford one glass or one bottle!)

If you’d like to learn more about wine, you can visit Paris’s Wine Museum.
Interested in making a day trip to the Bordeaux wine region? It’s now easier than ever with the direct Paris-Bordeaux TGV train which leaves from Montparnasse train station. Book a wine tour at least one week in advance with Bordeaux’s office of tourism which is located in the center of Bordeaux (they have a branch office at the Bordeaux train station).

As for Kristin Espinasse’s wine – you can ‘deguster’ or taste the fruit of her and her husband’s labor (and all their friends and coworkers)- either in Paris or Stateside – in Portland, Or or New York City. I have yet to try the Domaine Rouge-Bleu label – but when I do I will be toasting to all of France’s hardworking grapepickers who deserve a hearty ‘bravo!’.

Musee du Vin/Wine Museum
5, Square Charles Dickens, Passy-Auteuil
Metro: Passy
Tel 01 45 25 63 26
Tuesday – Sunday
Hours: 10 am to 6 pm
Closed Mondays.

This museum also has a small restaurant where you can taste their house wine. Housed in a former abbey, the museum covers the history of wine-making in France.

Bordeaux Office of Tourism

>>Personal Paris/Bordeaux TGV travel experience (safety tips)