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12 Classic French Food-Wine Pairings
A perfect food-wine pairing elevates both elements. Here are 12 favorite French recipes pairings, including Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhône, Sauternes, and more.
Special Note: Bordeaux region is the largest wine growing area in France that comprises more than fifty different appellations. Bordeaux wines range from massively produced everyday table wines to prestigious and expensive vintages. The predominately style is red, but the region also produces sweet and dry wines, roses and sparkling wines. Red Bordeaux wines are mostly produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, or occasionally Carmenere. They are soft, elegant and silky, with aromas of dark fruit, truffles, spices, smoke, tar, and leather. Because they are typically medium to full-bodied, they perfectly pair with pates and terrines, roast beef, game pies, and goat and sheep cheese or game. Older vintages of wine pair well with dishes that include mushrooms, truffles, hard cheese or game White Bordeaux styles are mostly produced from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. They are predominately light, with floral, fruit and citrus aromas and pair well with seafood, vegetables, pasta and risottos
1. Chablis & Oysters
Chablis is a satellite region of Burgundy, known for its pure chardonnay wines made with little or no oak. Classic Chablis is full of tension, minerality, and zest. The soils of Chablis are rich in calcium and fossils from an ancient sea, making the pairing with oysters natural and perfect. Most oyster dishes pair well with Chablis, but the simplest and finest match is raw.
2. White Burgundy & Veal
White Burgundy is the highest expression of Chardonnay. Famous sources include Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, St. Aubin, and Corton-Charlemagne. As long as the wine retains some acidity, it should match beautifully with the subtle, delicate flavors of the veal
3. Muscadet & Mussels
Muscadet is the refreshing, uncomplicated white wine made along the Loire River near the Atlantic Coast. With the ocean nearby, it’s a perfect match for shellfish, particularly oysters or mussels.
4. Sancerre & Sole/Flounder
Sancerre is pure Sauvignon Blanc, and our favorites (including those from neighboring Pouilly-Fumé) are tank raised with no oak. Their combination of juicy grapefruit and mineral freshness matches beautifully with a fine fish in butter.
5. Condrieu & Asparagus with Hollandaise
Condrieu is the highest form of Viognier, a grape known for its viscous texture and explosive aromatics. Asparagus is famously difficult to pair with wine, but this combination elevates both into a perfect food-wine pairing.
6. Red Burgundy & Duck
Red Burgundy is the most complex and subtle expression of Pinot Noir. At its finest it combines delicate berry fruits with cool earthiness; as it ages red Burgundy picks up notes of underbrush, mushrooms and leather. Our favorite pairing is a carefully roasted duck breast,
7. Southern Rhône Red & Stew
Southern Rhone reds usually blend Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and other grapes. The resulting wines are bold and rich, with mouthfilling textures and dark, jammy notes. Most beef stews work well with these sturdy, cozy wines.
8. Beaujolais & Coq au Vin
Beaujolais is the often-underestimated red from southern Burgundy. Made from pure Gamay, the wines are jubilant and easy to appreciate. The freshness in Beaujolais gives it plenty of tension to cut through the richness of stew, but the berry notes match better with chicken than beef or pork.
9. Northern Rhône Syrah & Lamb
Northern Rhône Syrah is as subtle and elegant as the varietal gets, combining dark berry complexion with soaring, lightweight aromatics. Tasters often find notes of smoked meats, bacon, licorice, and cloves, and our favorite food-wine pairing for these is the subtle gaminess of lamb.
10. Bordeaux & Steak
Steak pairs well with many reds from France, but our favorite match is Bordeaux. In particular, merlot-dominant Bordeaux from the right bank (Pomerol, St-Emilion) provides a juicy foil for the savory richness of fine steak.
11. Vin Jaune & Comté
Vin Jaune is the oxidized, sherry-like wine made in France’s Jura region. It’s intense, unusual, and delicious: think notes of walnuts, dried fruit, anise, curry, pine, etc. It can be a bit abrupt on its own, but with cheese – specifically Comté from the same region – it is magical. A legendary food-wine pairing.
12. Sauternes & Roquefort
Sauternes is another idiosyncratic wine, but one with a long and famous history. A favorite wine of Thomas Jefferson, Sauternes is made from mold-covered shriveled up grapes just south of Bordeaux – it’s sweet, complex, and remarkable. Look for notes of apricot, pineapple, magon, ginger, caramel and honey. We suggest combining this moldy sweetness with some moldy saltiness: Blue cheese will do, but Roquefort will do best.