Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Wine Wisdom, sil vous plait (

Danna Mar 12th, 2002 04:34 AM

Wine Wisdom, sil vous plait
Would someone care to give a short disertation on ordering wine at French Restaurants? Any differences from the traditions observed in les Etats Unis? My husband drinks 0-1 glass of wine with a meal, so I usually order by the glass. Is this frowned upon? Should I ask for a list by the glass? (How would you say that?) Or just let the waiter select? If I do order a bottle (Champagne maybe) is the ritual of lable/cork/taste the same? Any other tips are appreciated. <BR>BTW, we are dining at Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagnaire (I hope)and La Regalade.

elaine Mar 12th, 2002 04:45 AM

Danna<BR>If you're wine drinkers at home, you'll be fine in France. Most restaurants have wines by the glass and usually in France even the "house" white or red is excellent because as you know wine is important to them.<BR>The restaurants you mention have staffs that speak English and fine reputations, and they'll I'm sure be happy to assist you or make recommendations. By the way, I've sometimes asked for them to remove the wine label and give it to me.

Bill Mar 12th, 2002 05:01 AM

Betty, why do you ask them to remove the label and give it you?<BR><BR>Danna, I know about the ritual with the cork and taste, but what are you referring to with the label?

Michael Mar 12th, 2002 05:28 AM

Here, there, and elsewhere, it is always proper to check the label to be sure that the waiter/sommelier has brought the correct wine that you ordered - I find that many restaurante (in the US, that is, I'm not sure about France) will substitute another vintage without informing you, and will - less commonly - simply make an honest mistake and inadvertently bring a different wine.<BR><BR>Also, note that the purpose of tasting the wine is not to determine if you like it, but to confirm that it is not flawed. The most common fault will be a wine that is "corked" - approximately one bottle in 20 in my experience - which means a wine that has developed a musty moldy sort of off-flavor (most definitely NOT intended to refer to a wine that may have an odd bit of the cork floating in it). I have never tasted a wine that has turned to "vinegar" in literally thousands of bottles opened.<BR><BR>The one thing that you shouldn't do is fuss with the cork, and certainly don't sniff at it. My wine nut friends and I derive intense amusement from watching what ridiculous rituals people go through in restaurants with wine corks. There's nothing you can learn from sniffing an old piece of tree bark and you're going to taste the actual wine in a few seconds, so why bother anyway? If the wine is a particularly rare or valuable bottle it's appropriate to check the cork to ensure that it bears the same producer/chateau name and vintage year - though I've never heard of anyone having any problems in that regard, but that's really about it.

Ruth Mar 12th, 2002 08:17 AM

I think Betty asks for the label to keep as a souvenir - nothing more sinister than that!

Ruth Mar 12th, 2002 08:18 AM

Um, I mean Elaine - who is Betty?

Fred Mar 12th, 2002 08:24 AM

The same as here. You don't have to order wine at all if you don't want it. Contrary to some peoples' beliefs, not drinking wine is not frowned upon. Order by the glass. I some restaurants you can order order by the "pitchet", about 1/4 bottle, or order a half bottle. Some restaurants (like Brasserie Ile St Louis) give you a full bottle and charges you for the amount you drink, by quarters. For wine by the glass just ask for it - they will speak English at those restaurants (and most others) or just say "du vin par verre" (doo van pahr vair). For more Paris information e-mail me: [email protected]

kate Mar 12th, 2002 08:25 AM

Yes, I agree, ordering wine in Paris is as easy as at home.We often have the house (table) wine, which is always good! and by the glass.Champagne is enjoyed in Paris much more as a usual drink rather than a big celebratory drink the way it is in the US, you will see young people sitting and chatting,smoking and drinking house champagnes.Treat it like the other wines.No elaborate rituals in Paris, just order and drink and enjoy~

c Mar 12th, 2002 08:26 AM

One of the first phrases that I learned when visiting Paris was "vin rouge sil vous plait"!<BR>

Sherry Mar 12th, 2002 08:28 AM

Another ritual that I like when ordering just a glass of wine is when the bottle is presented at the table before the wine is poured. This is nice because you are assured that you are getting what you order. This is especially important if it is an unfamiliar wine. Also, if you can taste it, usually just a sip before it is served, you can also tell if it is not good. When ordering a wine by the glass, who knows how long the wine has been opened. Not a lot of restaurants do this, but it does add a nice touch. It also fixes the wine in your mind a little better, seeing the label.

Grasshopper Mar 12th, 2002 08:33 AM

C - I'm with you! I can say "Red wine please" in an amazing number of languages! :-)

Lexma90 Mar 12th, 2002 09:18 AM

Ordering wine by the glass is not frowned on, but it is a little more unusual there that it would be here, especially at a nicer restaurant. I would say the French view wine as an integral part of the meal. As you're on vacation anyway, and going to have some nice dining experiences, you might decide to order a bottle of wine (even if you don't finish it). You'll definitely have a wider variety of wine to choose from if you do that. To be honest, I'm not sure if nicer restaurants have a "house wine," though they'll definitely have some reasonable wines by the glass.<BR><BR>Particularly at Guy Savoy, you will probably deal with the sommelier, or wine steward, in ordering your wine, rather than your waiter or the maitre d'. He'll (or she, though unlikely) be dressed basically like a waiter, but be wearing a scoop-like metal bowl on a chain. Supposedly, that is (or was at one time) used to taste wine; I think it's now just used as a badge of authority. The sommelier can make suggestions, and help you choose a wine. (Remmember, Champagne is sparkling wine from the Champagne region, NOT a type of wine.)<BR><BR>To order wine by the glass, "Je voudrais un verre du vin (blanc/rouge) (de la maison), s'il vous plait." <BR><BR>Have a great time!

Christina Mar 12th, 2002 10:07 AM

Any restaurant, cafe, etc., that I've been in that serves it by the glass or small pitcher or small bottle has that clearly indicated on the wine list -- your choices among the wines--so it shouldn't be a problem to figure out. Some places give you a choice even by the glass; not as extensive a choice as a full bottle, but there may be a choice of brands/types (maybe this is more in cafes or places that aren't solely restaurants, where people can go just to have a drink). You can also often get small bottles (demi-bouteilles) of wine which have about 2-3 glasses in them, those can be a good choice as they can be better quality than the small open pitchers. Some places that have prix fixe menus for dinner will give you a demi-bouteille if you are single. They couldn't frown on people ordering small amounts because then what would single people do? (hopefully not drink a full bottle by themselves). I haven't dined at those expensive restaurants, so don't know about them, but some of the more expensive restaurants (less expensive that your list) I've been in don't serve it by glass--they probably will have a demi-bouteille, though, although not much choice.

PB Mar 12th, 2002 11:45 AM

Many of the finer restaurants such as Gagnaire, offer "tasting menus"... looks like a lot of courses, but the portions are smaller. Many of them offer the appropriate wines - by the glass - with each course. This is an excellent way to taste several wines.<BR><BR>PB

gary Mar 12th, 2002 09:36 PM

You can always order house wines by the glass, the waiter will ask if you want 25 or 50. Not wanting to look ignorant, I blithely said 50 which meant one glass with a 50cl decanter, in other words 500 ml of the house Bordeaux. But I was up to the challenge and drank the entire amount by myself. And as a token to the excellence of French wines, even house wines, I suffered no hangover or other ill effects. Bon appetit!

mike Mar 13th, 2002 12:51 AM

Danna,<BR><BR>Of course, you can do what you want. I think one thing to note is that French service is absolutely excellent. The waiters and sommeliers will almost certainly treat you with respect and good humour even if you admit frankly that you are a complete novice. This is often more true in the best places. Ignore the ritual unless it gives you pleasure - just drink!<BR><BR>Wine by the glass is fine, but choice will be limited. What I would suggest is that you ask the sommelier to pick a nice half bottle for you, based on what you have ordered. Tell him/her what you like at home and how much you are prepared to spend. A half bottle is only three glasses (two when I'm pouring), and the sorts of restaurants you are eating in will have some splendid choices. Be prepared for the sommelier to give you a bit of an oenological lesson - they tend to take great pride in their knowledge and professionalism. Just indulge them, it's fun anyway.

ttt Jun 10th, 2002 06:53 PM

topping for Dan

xxx Jun 11th, 2002 03:09 AM

Why do people worry about the how to of ordering in France but not anyplace else?

martine (from Belgium, Europe) Jun 11th, 2002 06:09 AM

When you have a meal in a french restaurant, you can (as an American) order 1 glass of wine (the will understand you because you are a tourist), but the European would never order only one glass with the dinner. What you can do is order a little bottle (made for one person) = app. 2,5 glasses. Never smell at the cork in a restaurant. Most of the wine in France is better than elswhere in Europe. The "gar&ccedil;on" can help you with your choise. The "vin du patron" is mostly cheaper and a good and honest wine.<BR>We personally like the "Medoc" wine the most. When you visite the region of Bordeaux, you have to visit a winecellar, where you can let fill your own bottle at the barrel. Than you will know how real wine taste, and you will never drink only one glass anymore. Have a good trip in France. You will come back again.

Danna Jun 11th, 2002 06:54 AM

Martine - thank you, that was a very nicely written, helpful post.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:26 PM.