I have a confession to make. It took me a very, very long time to learn anything at all about French wine.
In fact, I didn’t really get my head around it until about 18 months ago.
You see, in Australia wine is labelled by grape variety first, and then the region of Australia the grape was grown in. Additionally, grape varieties can be grown in numerous regions around the country. The wine drinker simply has to pick a variety they like and then they can try that variety from different regions, until they come up with a favourite.
In France, wine is labelled by region rather than by grape variety. This was a real challenge for me because I was so used to choosing wine by my favourite variety. I’d be offered a glass of Bordeaux or Burgundy and I’d get all concerned…‘What if this wine is made from one of the grapes I don’t like?’ and similar questions would fly through my head.
As a result, I ended up limiting myself to only a few wines – safe choices like Côtes du Rhône and Sancerre predominated (no matter what I was eating) mainly because I knew I liked those grape varieties.
You can imagine the raised eyebrows I’d receive from French waiters!
Clearly, for someone who wants to travel to France as often as I do, this situation was going to have to change. I decided that I had to learn more about French wine.
The good news is that the are plenty of places in Paris to help you out if you do decide you need to learn more about French wine. In fact, the team at Haven in Paris provided these ideas very recently.
We chose to undertake our French wine education with the very entertaining team at Ô Chateau.
Conveniently, located in the 3rd arrondissement and founded by wine expert and author Olivier Magny, Ô Chateau offer a variety of wine tastings at a range of price points.
We elected to take the ‘Tour de France of Wine’ which was a two hour session held in the evening. This session was such a relaxed and fun way to learn about French wine. The session covered many topics but the most valuable for me were:
- A run down on all the key French wine regions – where they are and what grapes they grow;
- A lesson on how to read French wine labels; and
- Wine tasting tips so you can get the most out of the whole wine experience.
Ô Chateau also provided handy cheat sheets and by the end of the session I could finally explain the differences between a Bordeaux and Burgundy!!
Our very international group fit easily around a large table in the Ô Chateau tasting cellar, giving everyone a chance get to know each other, while discussing what they liked or didn’t like about the 6 wines offered to us.
And our tutor made sure that everyone’s questions were answered. He spoke excellent English – in fact, in chatting with him later we discovered that he was a winemaker who had worked all over the world, including in Australia!
Just one suggestion. If you only like one wine style – for example, only red wines or only white wines – you might like to choose a tasting more suited to your preferences. Scott and I were both surprised to find that a number of people who’d paid for the session wouldn’t actually taste some of the wines because they didn’t think they would like them. It seemed like a bit of waste to us…
As an aside, we also enjoyed a lovely meal at Ô Chateau after our tasting, which allowed us to try a full glass. I’ve got to tell you that I’m happy to recommend the entire Ô Chateau experience.
Oh, and I have to give a big thank you to Distant Francophile reader Rosie, for reminding me that I wanted to share the Ô Chateau experience with you all.
I’d love to hear if you’ve done a wine tasting in Paris. If so, please share in the comments below.
Until next time – au revoir.
Please note that this is an unsolicited post and no compensation has been received.