3 Tips on Getting into French Wine

Learn about French wine. Here are some expert tips to guide you on your path to the wines of France. For more details, watch the video below!

3 Tips on Getting into French Wine

Jeff Garneau Bordeaux Tasting
Tough life. Jeff Garneau tasting Bordeaux for his job at K&L Wines.

The biggest barrier to the eager novice of French wine is the lack of varietal labeling. The French appellation system seems needlessly opaque to Americans, most of whom are accustomed to seeing the name of the grape dominating the label rather than the region of origin.

My advice to them, as with all things related to wine, is to start simply, and learn as you go.
–Jeff Garneau, Bordeaux Guy at K&L Wines

Begin with a variety you already know and love.

Thanks to the French influence on American winemaking, most French grapes are already familiar to us here in the United States. If you’ve ever heard of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay well then, you’ve already started your education!

Learning about which grape variety is made in the different wine regions of France gives you a leg up on finding more of what you like.

french-wine-regions-map-simplified
A simplified map of the most popular wines from each region. This is just the tip of the iceberg, keep exploring!

Don’t spend a lot of money up front.

While it’s true that there are famous French wines that are sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars a bottle, you can do very well for $20 or less. In the best vintages, wines in the $10 to $20 range can be very good indeed! –Jeff Garneau, Bordeaux Guy at K&L Wines

Wine Map of Champagne

Wine Map of Champagne

Learn the regions and crus of the Champagne region in France.

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VINTAGE TIP: Vintage matters with French wine. 2 popular vintage charts to bookmark are Berry Brother’s and Rudd and Robert Parker.

Choose a knowledgeable partner to help guide you.

Find a local wine shop with a good selection of French wines and a patient and willing staff who share your enthusiasm and passion. While it’s fine to explore on your own, a wine savvy professional can help you avoid the pitfalls of label confusion and vintage variation. Once you find a wine you really love, they can direct you to other, similar wines you may enjoy.

A great wine retailer is both knowledgeable and not-at-all snobby.

The secret to French Wines starts with their wine regions

Want to Learn More About French Wine?

Check out our detailed free guides on the most popular French wine regions. The guides include maps, classification system breakdowns and tips on finding great value. You’ll never be confused in a French wine aisle again.

Maps that make a HUGE impression!

Maps that make a HUGE impression!

Our largest wine maps ever are back! Limited number available.

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Sources:
  • Special thanks to Jeff Garneau for his great an unsnobbish approach to getting into French Wine!

About Madeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly