Every culture has its pitfalls. You know those little traps that could have you labeled as persona non grata for reasons you are still trying to understand. French culture is no exception but never fair, Preston is here to save the day – well at least for the wine. Before you head off to your next French dinner, why not read through these small French wine etiquette rules so you come out looking like a star.
You do not need to be in Paris very long to see how important wine is for the French and their culture. They’ve been making wine on what is now French soil for over 2,500 years! First the Greeks, followed by the Romans and then the Catholic Church dominated the wine industry and have made France the most influential place for wine production. So needless to say, wine is fully integrated into the culture. The rest of us try to catch up a little by learning about wine. In new-world wine producing countries, we do not have the same relationship with wine.
While you are in France, you can follow a few rules to make sure that you’re not making a cultural faux-pas when it comes to wine.
1. Bring a bottle to your host. 75% of French people drink wine on a regular basis, so your wine will not be wasted. Wine is easier to put aside when you arrive, rather than flowers that need to be put in a vase and can create a bit of a panic for the host.
2. Don’t assume the bottle you bring will be consumed in your presence. The host has often picked special wines to accompany the meal. Maybe they are serving fish and your full-bodied red won’t cut it. If you’re dying to try a certain wine, buy it for yourself and not for your host as you’re not sure to get to try the one you will bring.
3. Gift regionally appropriate wines. For example, if your hosts are from Burgundy, you probably should not offer them a wine from Bordeaux. The classic wine regions of France are always in competition with one another and it can be considered offensive to offer a “competitor’s” wine. Even if your host’s family has been living in Paris for 2 or more generations, they often still identify with their regional family seat’s home as their origin.
4. Champagne is always appreciated! Enough said on this topic. Bring it chilled!
5. Spend more than 5 Euros on that bottle. I know it’s tempting to take a chance on the cheap supermarket wines, 9 times of out 10 they are not good!
6. Wait for the host to propose a toast, don’t just start guzzling away. At small events, your host may even wait for all of the guests to arrive before they open the bottles. Don’t expect to be handed a glass immediately upon entering the party.
7. Bring one bottle per-person. That is the magic rule when hosting a party and while it may sound like a lot, it tends to be the amount that is consumed per-person throughout a dinner party. If there are leftovers, your host will keep the bottles for the next time.
8. Wait for your host to serve you first. At informal gatherings, it would be fine to serve others and then yourself after this. However, at more formal, seated events, you may wait until your host serves you again. Feel out the situation and judge accordingly.
By following these simple rules, you’ll be sure to get the message across that you respect France and its long and passionate history with wine.
For more Cheese &Wine as well as Food & Wine pairing and French etiquette, join us in class.
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