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Susy Atkin’s top tips for enjoying French wine

Posted on 16 January 2018Food & Drink, Wine

The France Show is such a cheerful and inspiring way to spend a day, especially in dark, late January. I’ll be resident wine expert there again, conducting informal wine tasting sessions in the Cave a Vin, in the wine theatre, and on the Flavours of France stage with the chefs!

The show is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of French wines – don’t miss the chance to taste at the various wine exhibitors’ stands for some exciting new finds. Here are some top tips from me on how to get the best out of French wines, both at the show and beyond:

* Look beyond the obvious regions – you may know your Bordeaux reds, Burgundian whites and Champagnes, but what about the wines of the Jura, Savoie or Maury, or the sparklers of the Loire and Limoux? Make a beeline for labels from lesser known regions and you’ll discover vastly different styles and flavours.

* Don’t always go for the same grape varieties. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot and so on are tried and tested, so give some other grapes a chance – France has a treasure trove! I love rich blends of carignan and grenache from the deep south, or how about raspberry-tinged, fresher cabernet franc from the Loire? As for whites, try crisp picpoul, or Alsace’s fine and richly textured pinot gris.

* Be adventurous in your food matching with French wines, but don’t ignore the classic pairings that have evolved together in each wine region (they‘re often the best!). For example, white Sancerre, which is 100% sauvignon blanc, is a grassy, lemony match for the Loire’s fresh goat’s cheese, refreshing muscadet was just made for moule frites and Provence’s dry and pale rosés are stars with langoustines/prawns…

* Drink your French wine at the right temperature. Far too many whites are served much too cold (so the delicate aromas and flavours are muted), while reds left in a hot kitchen or by the fire can taste jammy and confected when they are warm. Make sure your whites are only lightly chilled, especially in winter, and reds should be at room temperature, or even just below it if they are light in style.

* And finally, please, please pick the experts’ brains! Mine of course, but also those of all the wine stand exhibitors and wine theatre speakers at the show. That’s what we are there for, so make the most of us.

I’m looking forward to meeting lots of you and answering your French wine questions. Cheers!

Susy is the wine writer for the Sunday Telegraph Stella magazine, wine editor of Delicious magazine and a wine author and broadcaster.

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