The idea of tackling France—the accents and the growing regions and the different vintages—can feel like a vast, unmanageable task for anyone who wants to start learning about wine. But even the most seasoned wine professionals sometime mispronounce words, so you shouldn't worry. Today's guide will help you get a little more comfortable in the French section of your local wine shop.
'France' on Serious Eats
This acid-driven white wine grape has been at it for over 500 years, and has changed gears, reinvented itself and worn any number of hats. Its future looks bright—and long.
It's an exciting time for cocktails in France: the current crowd has developed a more adventurous mindset when it comes to drinks, and bars are responding with ever-more interesting (and delicious) ways to quench your cocktail cravings. Here's our guide to the best cocktail bars in Paris, old and new.
To many American drinkers, Provence is synonymous with wine, but this romantic region of Southern France holds so much more, from sweet black currant liqueur drinks to complex grape brandy. It's not that you shouldn't lap up the local rosés with your duck breast salad, but when you're on vacation in Southern France, there's so much more to tempt you into a mid-afternoon aperitif beyond the bottles that regularly make it across the pond.
An endless sprawl of cheeses and olives, asparagus and charcuterie; the Wednesday morning market in Saint-Rémy is the serene Provençal spread of your dreams. No writer has made it through southern France without pausing to wax poetic about the bustling, colorful stands that make up the outdoor shopping experience in this part of the world. Covering most of the town—which, with a population of only 10,000 people, isn't quite as massive as it sounds—the market at Saint-Rémy is well-known as one of the region's best.
A tiki bar is probably not the first thing you think of when imagining Paris drinking destinations, but then again, where would faux-Polynesian seem like the logical theme for a watering hole? The Dirty Dick opened this February, replacing a "hostess bar" (read: brothel) in Pigalle, a neighborhood in transition from red-light district to trendy cocktailing destination.
Following up last month's post on greater waves in the Parisian coffee scene, we offer this guide to some of the best spots to drink quality coffee when in lovely Paris in the spring (or any time of year).
Paris has very few things about it that inspire pity, and until recently, coffee was one of them. What a travesty of taste that in a place where the sidewalk cafe and all its attendant idle pursuits have been perfected, what's inside the cup has been, until recently, so very poor. The enlightenment's come, however.
There's got to be room for a beer in even this city of wine, wine, and wine. As French brewers slowly join the legion of specialty craft beer makers crawling across Europe, Paris at last has an emphatic entrant in the beer destination category in La Fine Mousse. La Fine Mousse is a uniquely French-brewer focused, craft-focused gem of a beer bar in the 11th arrondissement.
For a limited time at McDonald's France, you can get burgers with bagels-for-buns as part of their "Bagel Stories" campaign. The burgers come in three variations: Cheese, Red Onion, and Bacon.
In Pomerol, Fronsac, Saint-Emilion, the wines are almost exclusively merlot-based blends, which grow well in the clay soil that dominates the region. Plateaus of limestone and patches of sand scattered throughout the vineyards allow for modest growth of other grapes which lend structure and personality to the merlot with which they are blended. Unlike Left Bank wines, which are dominated by tannic cabernet sauvignon that's built to age and meant to sit for years in a cellar, these merlot-based wines are lower in tannins and acid, which gives them incredible versatility.
Back in 2009, Eric Asimov wrote about the overall improvement of Languedoc wines over the last 25 years or so, stating that "In a tasting... of 20 bottles of red from the Languedoc, the wine panel found them still to be all over the place stylistically. But the level of high quality in the winemaking was unexpectedly consistent." After tasting well over 100 wines in the course of a week on a recent tour through the region by the Le Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc (check out this post for some snapshots and highlights), I can wholeheartedly agree with him, though I did manage to pick out some personal favorites.
Last month I went on a whirlwind wine tasting trip in Languedoc, the Southeastern section of France that hugs the Mediterranean. Before the trip, if I were to have judged from the amount of Languedoc wines I see in the U.S., I would have guessed Languedoc to be, say, around 4 to 5% of the total wine production of France. I would have been wrong. Indeed, coming in at a full 30% of France's production, Languedoc is the most prolific wine-producing region not just in France, but in the entire world.
The Sandwich Baguette Façon McDo is apparently McDonald's attempt to increase their already large fast food market share to include principled older French people who would normally reject what they consider to be zee nourriture Américaine (bof!). It consists of a baguette tradition, romain lettuce, Emmental cheese, two burger patties, and a sauce based on moutarde à l'ancienne.
Just like the new Star Wars films, while the Dark Vador burger looked great on the outside, the final product had no taste or depth. Cardboard acting, er, hamburger; waxy plot lines, er cheese; overwhelming kitsch, er, mayonnaise. I felt pretty horrible after eating this.
Belgian/French burger chain Quick will release Star Wars-themed burgers for a limited time in conjunction with the February release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 3D in theaters. Three double patty burgers will be available starting in February: the Dark Burger (available until March 1), the Jedi Burger (available until March 5), and the black-bunned Dark Vador (Darth Vader) Burger (available until March 1). The Darth Vader is getting all the attention, of course, because black bun = WTF. I couldn't find a description of the toppings, but I'd guess it's spicy since the red bits look like peppers.
You're not at the Eiffel Tower to eat (well, maybe at Jules Verne), you're there for the amazing view of the City of Lights, hopefully with your special squeeze, and hopefully as the sun sinks below the horizon, shedding its warm glow across the skyline. If you want pizza, mes amis, try Italy. If you want spectacular views from a tower that still stands at a 90° angle, Paris is your game.
Seriously chalky soil is part of what makes the Cote des Blancs region in Champagne famous for its chardonnay. We recently tasted two blanc de blancs (all-chardonnay) Champagnes from this region: one from Perrot-Batteux et Filles, and the other from Pierre Gimmonet. These wines launch our explorations of grower Champagnes: wines made by small producers—the families who grow the grapes. Think of it like microbrewed beer, except the independent microbrewer also happens to be a hop grower and malt-producer. Well, maybe it's not a perfect metaphor...
While traveling through northwest France, I was on the hunt for new, nutty discoveries in Brittany. Strolling through the tiny historic tourist village of Rochefort en Terre, I stumbled upon a tiny shop, L'Art Gourmand, and was blown away by all the nutastic treats. Almost every nut is represented here: almonds, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, even humble pignolis, not to mention one of the largest, most playful assortments of marzipan I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of marzipan). Puppies, dinos, bunnies, pigs, and an assortment of fruits—all in marzipan form.