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The French are true connoisseurs of wine, and have a rich history to back it up. France first became world-renowned for its wine flavor and quality during Napoleon’s rule in the 19th century, leading into the golden age that still defines French wine today. With almost 2 million acres of vineyards, 100+ common varieties of wine, and up to 14.2 million hectoliters of wine (about 1.9 billion bottles!) produced every year, France is truly a leader in this space and has a profound & lasting influence on developing wine nations.
France is divided up into 11 major wine regions, each with a different climate and terrain. You’ll notice that French wine is labeled by these regions instead of its grape variety. This is because the varying natural environments and appellation systems give each wine a notable taste and flavor unlike any other.
In France, you’ll often see friends gather before dinner around a charcuterie board paired with a nice wine, beer, or French liqueur. This is called an apéritif: a quintessentially French activity that signifies an introduction to the evening and allows for friendly socializing & relaxing before a meal. L’apéritif (or, l’apéro, for short) means “Let’s have a drink” and is derived from the Latin word “aperire” which means “to open”. It does exactly that; apéritifs are designed to ease you into the night and help set up your palate for dinner. You don’t need any fancy setting - hosting apéritifs in your kitchen or backyard is just as appropriate as hosting one in a park. Apéritifs are also different for every region of France, mainly featuring local alcohols and products from that area. Its purpose is simple but powerful: slowing down to enjoy everyday moments and connect with the people you love most. With that mindset and a good drink in hand, the French apéritif is truly a lovely affair.
It’s important that you make direct eye contact with other guests at the table during a toast (it is said that you’ll have 7 years of bad luck if you don’t!). You’ll want to clink glasses with everyone, but avoid crossing over anyone else’s arms to reach someone across the table. Take your time – it’s all part of the experience.
In French drinking culture, wine is reserved for your meals and it’s most appropriate to order a glass with some type of food. If you’re drinking multiple types of wine throughout the night, make sure you’re changing glasses for each one.
Make sure everyone has something in their glass, and let the host offer a toast before you start sipping on your wine. Even if there’s no toast, it’s still customary to clink glasses with other guests beside you, saying “Santé!” or “Tchin-Tchin!” (cheers). Take a small sip before setting your glass down.
If you find yourself drinking among the French, never pour your own glass at a restaurant. Instead, let your waiter or host do the serving. Leave a little wine at the bottom of your glass to signal that you’re finished drinking - otherwise, your server will keep refilling!
This classy, champagne-based cocktail gained its popularity in 1915, thanks to bartender Harry MacElhone, at the famous Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. The drink was said to have such a kick that it felt like being hit with the powerful French 75mm field gun, earning a name worthy of its wartime surroundings. With its clever title and winning combination of ingredients, the French 75 went on to become a popular mainstay of party-goers in the 1920s and 1930s. Eventually, it landed in the famous Manhattan’s Stork Club, where it solidified its place as a staple cocktail and has truly stood the test of time.
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