There is a quite unimaginable variety of wine in France so be choosy! Try to know your own palette – do you like dry or sweet wines, sparkling wines, red or white, fruity or full bodied etc.. If you’re not sure, taste a variety to help you decide.

Try to distinguish between what you are tasting – this will help you to understand the types of wine you like. If you know, for instance, that you like a Bordeaux red or an Alsace white, this maximises your chances of going quickly to wines that will suit your palette.

Tasting wine:

  1. Start with a fresh palette. You need to taste subtle nuances to get the best sense of the wine.
  2. Before you taste the wine, swirl it around the glass to warm it up slightly and to release its aroma. Put the glass to your nose and smell the bouquet. Try to sense the different aromas such as fruits, spices….
  3. Take a mouthful of wine and swirl it around in your mouth. Then swallow the wine and immediately say “tut tut tut” whilst drawing breath. This circulates air over the wine and maximises the sensory perception.
  4. When tasting several wines start with dry wines and then sweet ones, and from white to reds.
  5. Don’t be embarrassed to pour away what is left in your glass once you are satisfied that you can judge if you want to buy some! Usually there is a receptacle for disposing of unwanted wine. In some vineyards we have been to this is replaced by a pebble floor through which waste wine will seep away.

Dégustation: when you see this word, it means that the owner of the vineyard is prepared to let you taste his/her wine. In a smaller vineyard you will usually have to knock on a door to get someone to help you, but don’t worry – that’s quite normal. Don’t be pressured into buying something you don’t like, although there is a moral code that you should buy a few bottles at a dégustation session, so we recommend that you at least buy something out of courtesy.

Glossary.. useful words when wine tasting in France:

le bouchon – cork
le bouquet – bouquet
la bouteille – bottle
le dégustation – tasting
doux – sweet
fort – strong
le goût – taste
sec – dry
vente à emporter – “for sale to take away”


Our favourite food and wine in France: