Lifestyle in France : 3 Typical French Meals Paired with Fantastic Bottles

When you are French or travel in France, lunch and dinner are probably two of the most important moments of the day. Even though this tends to disappear in big cities, most families in rural areas still spend endless hours at the dinner table on Sundays, eating and drinking together.

Everybody enjoys good food. However, when paired with the appropriate wine, the overall enjoyment increases. A nice meal is always glorified by a quality wine and vice versa. Here are three typical French meals I had last week along with three bottles suiting them perfectly. (Make sure to give it a try either by travelling to France or by preparing it yourself!)

1) Moules à la marinière/Frites (Mussels “à la marinière”/French Fries) Served with a 2012 Pouilly-Fuissé (Chardonnay from South Burgundy)

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Mussels and Fries is one of the most popular meals in northern France and in Belgium. That being said, we also love it in the south!

In fact, a recent survey showed that 20% of French people considered it their favorite food.

If you are in the mood to google translate, you can find the accurate recipe online here.

As obvious as it sounds, for a successful “Moules/Frites” you need to use mussels of good quality.

It is possible to find great mussels all over France. However, the mussel of Bouchot produced in the bay of the Mont Saint Michel in Normandie is certainly the most famous one. Part of the AOC system, this kind of mussel can only be cultivated by around 70 producers on 7 specific villages with strict rules. That’s how you get one of the finest mussels in the world!

With this meal, you should avoid red wine in general as bitterness could be a problem. Sparkling wine, beer or a lighter white are the most common suggestions but I decided to go with one of my favorite appellations, Pouilly-Fuissé.

Pouilly-Fuissé is part of the Maconnais sub-region of Burgundy, near the city of Lyon. On those limestone soils and with a slightly warmer climate than most of Burgundy, the Chardonnay’s expression there is extremely charming. This bottle, a 2012 (solid year) from a talented winegrower was absolutely delicious and perfect with the meal. Its minerality complemented the mussels very well. Peach/apricot aromas, as well as a beautiful note of hazelnut, so typical of the best terroirs of Burgundy (this aroma does not come from barrel aging or malolactic fermentation but from the terroir itself!) made this bottle so enjoyable. Great balance, caressing mouthfeel and long finish as well.

2) Roasted Chicken Served with a 1982 Château Branaire-Ducru

Roasted chicken is another very popular Sunday’s lunch, especially in southern France. Nothing better than those chickens that I see running in the fields behind my house. That’s surely organic!

We decided to serve it with a rare bottle from an exceptional vintage, 1982. Château Branaire-Ducru is a Saint-Julien, a famous appellation an hour north of Bordeaux. It is currently one of my favorite wines in the world with a very elegant, pure and refined personality, year after year. 1982 is one of those legendary years in Bordeaux (much like 1989, 1990, 2000, 2005…). In that region, a great year means great aging potential (with proper storage conditions). In this case, this bottle did not disappoint. The wine was still fruity with fine and melted tannins.

That being said, I suggest collectors to start opening their 1982’s or to sell them as they are usually worth a lot of money. This vintage is now on its way down in most cases.

The lunch was excellent. As a general rule, wines from Médoc and Graves go hand in hand with white meats, lamb and chicken. However, give the Cabernet-Sauvignon a few years to polish its structure a little, the pairing will be that much more enjoyable.

3) 3 Cheeses Served with a 2010 Languedoc

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 Even though white wine is the best option in general, serving red wine with cheese is another BIG tradition in France.

There are three types of cheese on the picture to the left: Brie, Comté (unpasteurized cow’s milk) and Bethmale (cow’s milk).

With those delicious cheeses, we tried a northern Languedoc, a tannic and “big” red wine.

Overall, this bottle wasn’t the best option to go with Bethmale and Comté. It felt a bit heavy. Lighter red wines (a Burgundy, a Beaujolais, or even a Cabernet-Franc from the Loire Valley) fit those ripened cheeses much better. Or older wines with a softer structure.

However, the pairing with the Brie was wonderful. Strong in taste, this cheese supports nicely the tannic structure and alcohol content of a southern red wine. Don’t be afraid to serve a young Bordeaux, a Languedoc-Roussillon or similar styles with Brie.

– A note on the Languedoc region: For the most part, these wines don’t have great aging potential. As much as I enjoy them young, when they are very fruity and explosive, some of them have a tendency to fade very fast, within a few months. I have experienced that more than once. Most of these bottles should be opened within 3-4 years.

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