How to taste French wine

Getting to know your wine, enjoy your wine

Do you know which French wines are worth buying?

Faced with bewildering choice in supermarkets, hypermarche, how do we find a half decent wine or better still a real bargain?

This is a page we are going to develop meanwhile here are a few clues… enjoy.

Happily all French wines provide the answer on their label.
The label is your good friend if like most new friends, you are prepared to listen and be understanding!

Further more, much French wine is grown organically, no child labour is used, European wage rates are paid and the best is even hand picked.

Here is a brief practical introduction to a complex subject that can enrich our lives.
None of the following is definitive.


Featured here


The drink

The drink that arrives from the villages and chateaux as French wine has its starting point the definitions of the French Code de Vin, also EU regulations.
It comes exclusively from the juice of fresh grapes and must have an appellation d’Origine, that is a place of origin shown on the label.
Many French wines and all of the best are organically grown not messed about with by scientists or salesmen!


Each vineyard and each year represents originality.
What ever your taste there will be a good wine for you; you can have the fun of finding then the pleasure of enjoying it: and for the perfect accompaniment with a good case of wine? May we recommend, a Gordon Frickers painting of the sort of places the best wines come from?


A great wine is a different experience.
It has taken life times, generations to develop.


The true value of a bottle of wine includes the outcome of some costly proceedings, vineyard upkeep, harvesting, making and aging, bottling, distribution, marketing etc, is in reality 3 things, quality, price and the pleasure given when it is drunk.


It is well said that good painting takes time; great painting takes longer, so it is with wines too.

Even without knowledge, for most of us intuition says, here is something with force, presence, special.
So too it is with wine.


Vive la Difference

Great wine has been the preserve of the rich and select few.
Today in a fast changing world it is possible to experience these wonderful treasures, great wines, if you know or will learn the trick.


The difference between good and bad wine is considerable and easy to tell.
It is easy to agree there are many good wines from all over the globe.

A fine wine is another matter.
There are many pretenders for this title.
With a little knowledge it is not difficult to unmask the unworthy.

A great wine is a different experience.
If you know enough to recognise one, it will change your life.
Once experienced, never forgotten and I am not talking about champagnes or other fashionable drinks.


We will try to point you in the right direction.
You will need to open your mind and might start with a few new words; the first is “Degustation”.
It means wine tasting so you should soon remember that.
The good news is in hospitable France it is often free and a tour of the wine villages and “chateaux” were the wine is made is easy to organise.
A few words about le Chateau; this can be a daunting word meaning a fortress or very grand stately home.
In France it is routinely also applied to many tiny farms which never the less produce a wine and most les chateaux are often open to the public for degustation, so it is a friendly word.


Flights and car hire, food and accommodation need not be expensive.
Look for the links on this site to various “Maison de Vin” and at Flybe and Easyjet.
If you are not sure you are welcome to Contact Us, good luck, and “bon chance”.


We would love to show guidelines for stocking a good cellar be it rustic or a Connoisseur’s, what goes with which foods, buying wine as an investment, wine and health, wine and art and much more.
You are welcome to “Contact Us” to learn more.


French Wine, a general introduction

France, with Italy, is the world’s largest producer of wine (Vin).
You will find VIN rouge, VIN Blanc and VIN rose and occasionally regional wines with less obvious titles like VIN jaune and VIN gris.

Most of the latter are still wines, except some called vins mousseux and, of course there is the most famous wine of them all, champagne.


There are 10 great wines, all either red or white and can be enormously expensive particularly as they age.

Today, buying great wine as an investment is considered by many to be a sport and hobby which with a little care can return in the medium term, substantial rewards.

Contact Us” if you would like to know more.


Wine Labels

With French wine, the label is your best and reliable friend.
The only “but” being that the wine should have been stored and transported sympathetically because wine is a living, maturing product.

On many labels the artwork is quite poor, as opposed to Chateau Mouton Rothschild where Baronne Philippine de Rothschild has chosen to feature artists which have included Picasso and the wine is in the top 5 of the world.
Yes it’s good to see an attractive label on your table.
Don’t be put off, here, just for once, the artwork is not the reason we are looking at the label.


The basic wine


Vin ordinaire / Vins de Table

is at the base end of the price and quality range.
Vin ordinaire is a blend of wines that can come from anywhere in France but often from the big wine-growing areas of the south round Montpellier.


Above Vin ordinaire come three main categories that are controlled by government regulations.


Vin du Pays

These have a minimum alcohol content of 8.5% though, in fact, you will find few, if any, below 9% (indicated on the bottle by 9°).
They are supposed to be minor local wines but can be blended to a maximum of one third with wines from anywhere so their local character can sometimes be rather obscured.
These are often cheap and reasonable.

VDQS – Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure

These are better quality wines of which the area of origin and methods of production are controlled.


Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC)

This is where the fun starts.

While quality is by no means limited to AOC wines, they are an easier place for the newcomer to start.
Here the quality starts.
These are subject to a government order which defines the area in which they are grown, the type of grapes used, the maximum permitted production, the minimum alcohol content and the methods of cultivation and production.
Among these there are, of course, the very great (and very expensive) wines but there are also plenty to be found at very reasonable prices (much less than what you pay for a vin ordinaire in Britain) so it is worth experimenting.
You will find them in epiceries and many other food shops.
Big supermarkets often have a good range.
There are wine shops, of course, but off-licenses, in the British sense, do not exist, look for “La Cave” instead.
Remember to buy your wine before the shops close!


  1. Older AOC wines can be very surprising.
    Often from relatively unknown chateaux you can find very good quality so look for AOC and the better still,
  2. Mis en Bouteille au Chateau is good news or
  3. Mis en Bouteille au Proprietore (bottled at the vineyard / farm or by the Owner) on the labels is better news.
    Other clues might be
  4. dans la region de production (in the region of production), or
  5. the bottle label might be numbered.

In France each town Hall (La Mairie or Hotel de Ville) and most Tourist Information Offices (Office de Tourisme) have a map for those interested, showing the AOC plots; your invitation to explore?


So, do look at the label;

  1. better if the wine comes from a region you know is known for great wine, like Bordeaux or Cotes de Rhone.
    Next best is a region known for good wine like Gaillac in the Tarn, Minervios, Corbieres in Langedoc
  2. better if an organization has attached their name to a bottle,
  3. better still if the chateau and proprietor have given their names.

At that level it is getting personal so the wine will be reasonable to very good and maybe if you are lucky still be a very cheap bargain, there are lots about particularly in the 4 months after Christmas (Noel in French).



AOC – Appellation d’Origine Controlee


The perfect accompaniment with a good bottle of wine, a Gordon Frickers painting of the sort of places the best wines come from.


Cheers, sauté, from, de Gordon Frickers


Great Wine, the difference


Then one can progress on up a scale to Grand Cru and the finest wines like Premiers Grands Crus Classes

Fairly self explanatory titles in which for example Château Ausone of St Emilion and Chateau Lafite Rothschild from Pauillac are rated category A.

Indecently, “Cru” means a plot of land, a growth area.


The 10 great classic wines of the world all come from France.
There are very good reasons why this is so.

St Emilion, Pomerol, Sauternes, and Medoc produce the majority of them.
Most of the others come from the Cotes de Rhone.

Many of the diverse and surprising villages where they originate are for your pleasure, featured on this web site at Famous Wine Villages.

The difference between good and bad wine is considerable and easy to tell.
It is easy to agree there are many good wines from all over the globe.

A fine wine is another matter.
There are many pretenders for this title.
With a little knowledge it is not difficult to unmask the unworthy.


The mystery of Wine and of paintings

Of course you tend within general limits to get what you paid for, however there is good sport to be had trying to find value among the less expensive wines in France from €2 to €10, in GB from £3 to £12 and it is not that difficult given the above so very good luck to you.

Within the home and hotel, few things are more compatible than good wine, good food and good paintings.
Few things set the scene better with their quiet appeal to the intellect, making a home, hotel or offices look and feel more stylish.
The rooms with great paintings give uplift to people without their even looking at the paintings.
They convey authority and integrity to the rooms in a way which no other furnishings can, challenging the imagination of all who see them.
Fine paintings arouse the intellect and give pleasure and value every time they are seen.
Why else are they so treasured?

The great paintings were all without exception produced by special artists each with a sense of individual mission.

With a need to respond to his special colour vision, the strong feelings his paintings express, this is a calling Gordon Frickers clearly shares.

Being rare and individual great pictures become treasured heirlooms.
Even more than wine, Fine Art has consistently proven to be one of the very best investments.

This project

was born like so many good ideas, at yet another good, convivial meal at a French table in elegant surroundings.

It is a pleasure to talk and write about wine.
The artist’s interest came from his dear old Dad (“not so much of the old” we still hear an echo of him saying).
From there this project was encouraged by very special friends Marie Therese and Joel Linquette, and many good people in France including those at Clos La Madeline and the Mayor and Mayoress of Sauternes.

Especially we think of our very good friends Joel and Marie Therese Linquette who hosted Gordon Frickers initially for the Brest 92 International Classic Boat Festival.
With out their hospitality, enthusiasm, interest and love, for wine, painting, life in general and in particular their inspiration, this project would not have started and you would not be reading this now!


Many of the villages from which world famous wines take their names and originate are for your pleasure, featured here.

In France there is a great enthusiasm for this project coupled with a desire to have more people to visit and see there is more to France than Provence and the Dordogne.


Enjoy, leave here better for the experience and come to share our passion for the Famous and Picturesque Wine villages of France.

If you can add something useful to this text, we will be doubly pleased to hear from you.

Wishing you good health, from Gordon Frickers © 2006


Additional reading try the beautiful “Larouse Wines and Vineyards of France“, ISBN 1-55970-113-7.

Be Sociable, Share!