When you consider great wine and food matches, there’s no better starting place than France.
It’s true, food and wine from the same region often make the best match. And why not? They grew up together!
Mixing it Up
Arguably the most respected red wine region in the world, Bordeaux produces regal reds made primarily from blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes. Some Bordeaux blends, such as those from the Médoc, use more Cabernet; some, like those of St-Émilion, use more Merlot. The white wines are made with Sauvignon Blanc tempered with Semillon grapes. Typically, you won’t find the grape varieties listed on the labels of Bordeaux wines: look for place names and the names of the producers.
Hooray for the Bordelais!
Red Bordeaux wines pair famously with the beef, lamb, and ducks that are raised nearby. Fabulous foie gras and confit are made from ducks of the Bordelais. The beef and lamb of the area are sometimes prepared à la bordelaise, in a sauce made with red wine, ham, butter, shallots, thyme, and parsley. This region is also known for its truffles and mushrooms. The Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary, meanwhile, provide the shellfish and seafood that are served with Bordeaux’s white wines.
Pair these recipes with Bordeaux:
- Steamed Mussels II
- Cognac Shrimp
- Wine Sauce for Seafood
- Duck Cassoulet
- Sun Dried Tomato and Pine Nut Stuffed Beef Tenderloin
- Filet with a Merlot Sauce
- Sole In Butter Sauce
- Roast Leg of Lamb
- Braised Lamb Shank with Vegetables
- Herbed Lamb Chops
- Roasted Rack of Lamb
Giddy about Burgundy
The great red wines of Burgundy are made from Pinot Noir grapes, the whites from Chardonnay grapes. As with Bordeaux wines, you generally won’t find the name of these grape varietals on bottles of Burgundy–labels reflect the location where the grapes come from.
The Dish on Dijon
Burgundy is also a major food center. The food capital of Burgundy is Dijon, situated at the top of the wine-producing area. Classic dishes include Boeuf Bourguignon, coq au vin, and salmon in Chardonnay.
More than Mustard
True Dijon mustard is prepared with unfermented juice from local wine grapes and is a classic component of many meat and vegetable dishes, particularly those prepared à la dijonnaise. The area around Burgundy is also well-known for its cherries. Duck with cherry sauce and a bottle of red Burgundy is a classic pairing. Dishes cooked à la bourguignon, meanwhile, will feature a red Burgundy wine sauce with mushrooms, onions, and bacon.
Serve these dishes with red (pinot noir) or white (chardonnay) burgundies.
- Beef Bourguignon II
- Gingerbread I
- Steak Tips with Mushroom Sauce
- Fried Frog Legs with Creamy Onion-Mushroom Gravy
- Escargots Vol-au-Vent
- Salmon with Dijon Cream Sauce
- Baked Salmon Fillets Dijon
- Duck Breasts with Raspberry Sauce
- Coq au Vin
- Mushroom Chicken Dijon
- Dijon-Tarragon Cream Chicken
Lyon and the Rhone
Syrah and Grenache are star players of the Rhone wine region, a long river valley that stretches from just below Lyon down to Avignon.
The Rhone wine region stretches 125 miles along the Rhone river valley and comprises two very distinct grape-growing areas. The vineyards of the steep northern Rhone valley produce Syrah-based wines characterized by pepper, sturdy fruit, and somewhat exotic tar and smoke flavors. Production is small–but the renown is large. The wider, warmer southern Rhone produces wines based primarily on fruity Grenache blended with Syrah and other red grapes. Sensational rosé is also grown in the southern Rhone.
The Hearty and the Haute
The city of Lyon is a gastronomic capital that is second to none. Its reputation as a culinary center extends back to antiquity, when it served as a wine supply center for Roman soldiers stationed on the frontier. Two proud culinary traditions have emerged side by side in Lyon: one encompasses refined, elegant cuisine, while the other is typified by rustic, hearty dishes of the country hearth.
In Lyon, the lowly onion rises to remarkable heights. Dishes prepared à la lyonnaise will feature onions in some incarnation, whether in a sauce or as garnish. In Lyon, potato and meat dishes, soups, and omelets are primed for onion preparations. The classic Lyonnaise sauce is made from sautéed onions cooked with white wine or vinegar and demi-glace. You can’t go wrong pairing Lyon-inspired dishes with wines of the Rhone, whether southern–like Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel, and Gigondas–or northern, such as Hermitage, Cote Rotie, and St. Joseph.
- Veal Roast Blanquette
- Flank Steak with Garlic Wine Sauce
- Filet Mignon with Rich Balsamic Glaze
- Romantic Chicken with Artichokes and Mushrooms
- Trout Amandine
- Onion Quiche
- Lyonnaise Potatoes
- Pumpkin and Sausage Soup
- French Onion Soup V
Keeping Pace with Alsace
German influences can be found all over Alsace, not least in the region’s cuisine and in its complementing wines.
Vins of the Vosges
White wines rule in Alsace, dominated by minerally Riesling, spicy Gewurtztraminer, and peachy Pinot Gris, but also represented by Muscat, Pinot Blanc, and the lesser known Sylvaner grapes. The grapes of this region are grown in the foothills of the Vosges mountains, which shelter the vineyards from wind and rain. Alsatian wines distinguish themselves among French wines by being labeled according to grape variety. Look for the tell-tale tall green bottles that denote Alsatian wines.
Defined by Diversity
Alsatian cuisine is like none other in France. Throughout the centuries, the Alsace region repeatedly changed hands between France and Germany. The culinary influences of these two countries are borne out spectacularly in Alsatian cuisine. The language of Alsatian cuisine is bilingual: in the city of Strasbourg, you can sit down for langouste cardinalisées with a side of spätzle or flammenküche and choose from local wines like Riesling and Gewürztraminer or Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.
Sauerkraut, French? Oui, Bien Sûr
When sauerkraut steps across the Rhine into Alsace, it is known as choucroute and is typically cooked with Riesling, juniper berries, and caraway seeds. Recipes vary, but when choucroute is prepared with potatoes, a variety of Alsatian sausages, ham, and other salted meats, it is called choucroute garni. It is a one-pot feast that is particularly delicious washed down with dry Alsatian Riesling.
Here are recipes that are representative of Alsatian cooking. Consider serving them with Alsatian whites like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Blanc.
- Quiche Lorraine II
- Plum Custard Kuchen
- Kevin’s Cherry Tart
- Cherry Clafouti
- Cherry Chambord Butter
- German Spaetzle Dumplings
- Pork Chops and Sauerkraut
- Goose and Kraut
- Sauerkraut a la France
- Onion Tart
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