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French Food & Wine

Top 5 Common Wine Mistakes

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis on April 6, 2010

Avoid this common 5 French wine mistakes and prevent big “faux pas” when drinking wine in France on a casual level.

1 – Trying to Imitate the Wine Experts

If you don’t know what you are doing, and start stirring your glass or looking at its color in big ceremony in front of the sommelier, you won’t fool anyone….

It’s an artform to know how to taste wine, so keep it simple.

Even if you are no expert, you can enjoy a good bottle, and comment about it:

  1. What do you taste?
  2. Any special flavor like fruits, chocolate, or maybe earthy forest?
  3. Do YOU like it?
  4. Is it strong or light?

It’s fun to see what the wine makes you think of, so don’t be shy, but be humble :-)

2 – Putting Ice Into Your Wine

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Although many French people do it at home, it’s considered “sacrilège” and should never be done at a fancy restaurant with a good bottle of wine.

Now if in a small bistro of Provence, in the middle of the August heat wave, you feel like adding a couple of ice cubes to your “pichet de rosé”, a lot of people will forgive you. I certainly will :-)

3 – Pouring too Much Wine in the Glass

Technically, you need to leave room in the glass so you can swirl it. But now, in France it is more a question of bonnes manières (French etiquette)”.

You never fill a glass to the top, that’s all.

And you don’t gulp your wine down. It’s meant to be tasted and enjoyed slowly.

4 – For a Woman – Pouring Her Own Glass of Wine

Here again, it’s a question of etiquette. A French woman usually doesn’t pour her own wine.

The man next to her keeps an eye on her glass and pours it when needed (a full time job if you are sitting next to me :-)

5 – Drinking/Pouring Your Bordeaux Till the Very Last Drop

It’s like Turkish coffee… Wines often have what is called “un dépôt”, it is ” la lie de vin” (sediment, lees). It’s thick and muddy, it doesn’t taste too good although it’s not toxic…

So if you are opening a good bottle, be careful when you are coming towards the end: you might want to leave about 1/2 inch in the bottle so that the sediment stays in there.

If by mistake your host pours it into your glass, just don’t drink it. Leave it in your glass, maybe swirl it a little discreetly so the sediment deposits around your glass: your host should see it and change your glass (hopefully…!)

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