No Rosé in Winter + 15 More French Wine Rules
Wine is a treasured part of French culture, and therefore etiquette revolves around proper appreciation of it. These rules are really guidelines for enjoyment, since the French don’t see the point in drinking a wine the wrong way.
There are of course exceptions to every rule, which is driven home by the “golden rule” of French wine drinking. See #16 below for that!
1. Rosé is for summer.
The French drink rosé almost exclusively in the summer, as a hot weather refreshment. Rosé is for enjoying outside on a terrace, at a picnic or in a garden, not for snobbing over.
2. Never put ice in your wine. Except rosé.
Ice in your wine is a big no-no because you’re watering down (aka ruining) the flavor. The exception? Rosé, which is acceptable to drink à la piscine — which means “to the swimming pool” but with rosé means putting ice in it. The ultimate is to enjoy your rosé à la piscine while at an actual swimming pool.
3. Don’t get wine wasted. Only champagne drunk.
Getting drunk off wine is not seen as classy. Wine is for appreciating, not for getting plastered. The only acceptable wine to get buzzed on is champagne, especially for women.
4. Open champagne with as little noise as possible.
A champagne pop may feel festive, but it isn’t considered sophisticated in France. Ideally, you will hear nothing more than a “fizz” as the cork comes out.
5. Never pour your own wine first.
After tasting to make sure the wine isn’t corked, you should only fill your glass after you’ve poured for everyone else at the table. It’s the same rule for the first pour and any subsequent pours. It is seen as selfish to give yourself wine first or only.
6. Wait to drink until everyone has wine.
When a bottle is opened and first poured, you should wait until everyone at the table has wine before touching your own. Otherwise you appear greedy.
7. The host controls the wine.
When you go to a dinner, at someone’s home or at a restaurant, wine pouring isn’t a democratic effort. The host is the one who is supposed to ensure people are poured wine. The same applies on a date when the man or host is technically supposed to pour. The idea is that the host can control how drunk people are getting. This is an old-fashioned rule and is often relaxed in more casual situations, but rule of thumb: don’t reach for the bottle unless it is your home or your dinner party.
8. Waiters don’t touch your wine after opening it.
In America, it is not uncommon at all for a waiter to come and “top off” your wine. In France this is sacrilegious. Once that bottle is opened and first poured, the customer who ordered it controls it. At very fancy restaurants, the sommelier may continue to pour your wine, but never the waiter.
9. Wait until your glass is empty before adding more.
“Topping off” is not really appreciated in France. By waiting until your glass is empty you can keep track of how much you’ve had to drink.
10. Never mix wines in your glass.
Another reason to wait until your glass is empty. If a different bottle is opened, you should never add wine to a glass with wine already in it. Even if it is the exact same type. This is because each bottle is different and you may be ruining the flavor.
11. Clinking glasses should be close to silent.
A loud clink may sound festive to your ears, but in France it is not classy. Glasses should barely touch.
12. Make eye contact when saying cheers.
When saying santé in France, be sure to look the intended person in the eye.
14. Drink red wine with cheese.
Yes, red wine is a better pairing for some cheeses, but this is more a French cultural habit than a rule that makes sense. Feel free to break this one. Pro tip: A sweet wine with a blue cheese is an excellent pairing.
15. When visiting a region, drink the wine from that region.
The French wine version of “when in Rome.” When touring Bordeaux, have a Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Franc. When in Burgundy, enjoy a local Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
16. Enjoying your wine is the most important rule.
The golden rule of French wine drinking is that wine is good when you like it. Even a fancy, expensive bottle is no good if you don’t enjoy how it tastes. So if you really like a glass of rose in winter, go for it!
Have you learned any wine etiquette rules in France? Share in the comments below!