As one of the only French wine subscription services in the United States, we’ve made it our mission to introduce some of the best French wines to our lovely club members. But as well as sharing our favorite French wines with you, we also try to give you a glimpse of French wine culture which might seem a bit unusual if you’re used to American customs and traditions.
Today we thought it would be fun to talk about things French people never do when they drink their favorite French wines. If you’ve ever visited France, you might have noticed that there seem to be a lot of rules surrounding when, what and how you should eat and drink. For example, you’ll rarely see French people snacking in between meals, while in America snacking is almost an art form! Yet often these principles exist for a very good reason.
Here’s five things you’ll (almost) never catch the French doing when they’re drinking fine French wines!
- Fill Their Glasses to the Brim
Although it might save you time and look more generous to pour big serves of wine, the French know that it’s better to pour smaller quantities and top up the glasses over time. If you’re eating at a restaurant or in someone’s home, it usually falls to the waiter or the host to ensure everyone has enough to drink during the meal.
Sticking to smaller pours means the wine won’t warm up so much while it’s sitting in the glass which is particularly important for white wines or Champagne. Leaving plenty of room in the glass also allows the wine to breathe and you’ll be able to appreciate the aromas and flavours better.
- Drink Red Wine Without Food
Quelle horreur! French people rarely drink wine on its own and when they do indulge in an aperitif before dinner, it is usually a glass of Champagne, sparkling wine or a kir which is a simple cocktail made with white wine and crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). These types of drinks are refreshing and also light enough to make sure you don’t get tipsy before dinner time.
Red wine is usually only served alongside a meal since sipping it without food is a surefire way to get drunk! The French also like to choose their wines to match the food they are eating, so normally red wines are served with red meat dishes while white wines and sparkling wines accompany lighter dishes like salads, fish or seafood. Things are changing, though, especially among younger so-called Millennials who may opt for a light red wine like Fleurie as an aperitif.
- Avoid Crossing Arms When Clinking Glasses!
This one is more to do with superstition than practicality. Just like here in the States, over in France people love to chink their glasses together. It’s common to say “à votre santé!” or “to your health” as your glasses meet, but it is very important to make sure that you don’t cross glasses with someone else as you’re all leaning in to chink your glasses together. The other unwritten rule is that you must make eye contact with everyone you chink glasses with. Failure to do so apparently results in seven years of bad luck!
While these rules might sound a bit odd to us today, they supposedly have their roots in medieval French history. Back then it wasn’t unheard of for people to try to poison their enemies by dropping a little poison in their glass. The practise of chinking glasses and making eye contact made sure that some liquid would probably be transferred from one glass to the next – a risk that would be enough to put off most poisoners!
- Buy the Cheapest Wine in the Store
When it comes to buying wine, the French rarely just grab the cheapest wine off the shelf. While there are always moments when you have to stick to a tight budget, the French always try to avoid compromising on quality when it comes to food and drink. They’d rather spend a few dollars extra on a decent bottle for dinner and cut down elsewhere in their expenses.
This might mean buying fewer bottles per month, but buying better quality bottles to make sure there’s always something delicious to savour alongside a good meal with family or friends.
- Adding Ice to their Wine
Unless it’s the hottest day of the year and they’re sipping a glass of simple rosé on the patio, French people very rarely put ice in their glass of wine. The reason is that the ice will melt very quickly and dilute the wine, thus reducing the unique personality and taste of the wine.
The best thing to do if it’s hot out and you want to enjoy a chilled glass of wine is to get a metal wine bucket that you can fill with ice and water. Stick the bottle in the ice and water mixture and it will stay cool for at least an hour or two. Or if you want to get fancy, you can even freeze grapes and add them to your wine for an instant cooling effect!
Has this whetted your appetite to learn more about French wine? We’re here to help! Why not check out our French wine club. Every three months we send direct to your door three or six bottles of boutique French wines which have been carefully selected by wine experts in France along with detailed information about each wine and food pairing ideas to help you really discover French wine. And as if that wasn’t enough, we also have a wine club gift option for that special wine lover in your life!