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Red wines

I like merlot for my red. What wines served at restaurants in Paris are anywhere near that gentle, dry taste?

Posted by
775 posts

Merlot is the most commonly grown grape variety in France. You'll find it (often blended with Malbec) in the Bordeaux wines.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks for answering! I'm heading out in late April. Looking a a menu, the reds are Medoc, Lalande-Pomerol, Graves and a slew of reds I don't recognize. Do you know any of them?

Posted by
22161 posts

You may have to expand your wine experience. I don't associate dry with Merlot. Merlot tend to be fruity, sweeter wines because they use early growth grapes. You can have merlots with more tannic but that is rare. US wines are identified by the major grape in the wine. French wines are id by region. Medoc is the largest wine producing region in French and provides a variety of wines including merlot. So is Lalande de Pomerol and Graves. All produces red wines including cabs, merlots, malbec, etc. Beaujolois in general are close to merlot but you might look for Beaujolois Nouveau but may be a little late for BN. You order wine by the estate name and, unfortunately, you have to know which estates bottle merlot. Just ask the waiter or some spend some time in a wine to see which grapes are included. The merlot grape is used a lot to blend wines. Just be more adventuresome and you might be surprised by what you like.

Posted by
8 posts

Hi and thank you. I do like the gentle, fruity taste of merlot. I said dry, I guess, because I absolutely detest sweet wines, red, rose and white. I really am on a tight budget, so it's important that I tiptoe....though I'd love to"spend time" in a wine or with a vintner... Any tips you have would be so appreciated. Tonya

Posted by
3031 posts

In France, wines are usually classified by the area they come from, not the grape (varietal) used. And almost all wines are blends. Unlike in the U.S., they focus on terrior - the land, vineyard, etc the wine came from, not the specific kind of grape, and blend different kinds of grapes to create the best finished product. I'm fairly well-versed in New World wines but I have not yet learned enough about French wines to know what varietals are used in most of the different regions. Best advice is to do some studying in advance online and find out what regions feature Merlot primarily in their blends, and order those. You could also try to ask a server to recommend a wine, assuming they speak English, or if you learn enough French to describe what you're looking for. One of the first words I learned in German was "dry" because I hate sweet wines. I can ask for a "trockener weisswine" and know I'll be getting something I will like. I'd suggest doing the same with French. Edit: Also I don't know if Beujoulais is a good substitute for an American Merlot. It's made with the Gamay grape. While it does have a soft mouthfeel like Merlot, it's a lot lighter in body. It is fruity they range from dry to somewhat dry - just like Merlots (fruitiness and dryness are not mutually exclusive after all)

Posted by
8 posts

Sarah! Thanks... Back 15 years ago, when I preferred white, I asked for "moyen" and got some decent wine, I thought. As I went back, I tasted the most magnificent reds, by an act of God, I suppose. What does "trockener weisswine" mean? (sp?)
Anyway, I heard the price of wine, by glass or 1/2 carafe, went WAY up in the last 10 years or so... so I must tread carefully. Tonya

Posted by
8 posts

Me, too.... I've had Beujoulais, from several locations and did NOT like it.. It reminded me of a watery something-or-other.

Posted by
3031 posts

"trockener weisswine" means "dry white whine". a lot of whites here are "halbtrocken" or "half-dry" (think "demi-sec" with champagne) and thus way too sweet for me. also it depends what kind of restaurant you're at and the quality of wine you're ordering, but the typical, quaffable stuff you see locals drinking at cafes is pretty affordable, not much more expensive than a soft drink, certainly cheaper than beer and much cheaper than cocktails. the other option to enjoy wine in Paris is to buy a bottle at a store and take it to a park (I'm not sure this is totally legal but people seem to do it all the same) or your hotel room if you have a balcony after a long day. pick up a corkscrew at monoprix and you're set! bottles in france, particularly at larger grocery stores (like the above mentioned monoprix) is very reasonably priced, cheap by U.S. standards.

Posted by
3313 posts

Beaujolais Noveau has nothing to do with a good mature Beaujolais. It is the wine that has just had its first fermentation and can be, indeed, light and watery. A good Beaujolais with a couple of years under its belt is a completely different animal.

Posted by
3031 posts

I've had both Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages that are a couple of years old, still found them to be fairly "thin" in body although not was watery as the New. And I like them, quite a bit actually! This is a great thread, I'm learning more about French wines too. I have to tackle Italian wines as well - at least then I'm usually somewhat familiar with the names of the varietals but I still don't know what regions are known for making the best of certain varietals or anything like that. If anyone wants to make suggestions for good Italian dry whites or full-bodied, spicy reds, I'd love to hear it. German wine...took some getting used to. I still haven't had a German red that I really like and I'm in the heart of the German Red wine industry. I've gotten more used to the whites - dry Rieslings, Graubugunders, Silvaners, etc. Still miss Chardonnay and Sav Blanc, though. But in Germany French and Italian wines are available at very reasonable prices so I'm trying to learn more about them. (Hope this isn't too much of a thread hijack!)

Posted by
8 posts

Oh, no, Sarah.. I want to learn all I can. I'd like to study to become a sommelier! It take a long time, and a few dollars, but I'd love it, so...let the knowledge roll in. I only wish we could all be tasting together!

Posted by
1986 posts

Tonya- back to your original list; Lalande-Pomerol or Pomerol (more expensive) are most likely to be Merlot or Merlot blends. others with a similar body would be St Emillion (also from Bordeaux) or even reds from the Loire or Touraine. However wherever you are, you will probably find local wines in the restaurants with a similar (lighter) body style and 'weight" - usually the house red wine. Try those, they will be cheaper and usually very drinkable. "halbtrocken" is a description for German wine- puzzled that you found these in France, although they could have been from Alsace

Posted by
791 posts

Sarah was referring to the wines in Germany, not France. I personally am not a fan of German wine. Even the most "trocken" tastes a bit too sweet for me.

Posted by
6291 posts

I think it will be a good opportunity to experiment and find out what else you may like. You could even get a few French wines here in the US from different regions and do a taste test of sorts to prepare yourself. While not directly comparable to a Merlot, I like the wines from the Cotes du Rhone region. They use mostly Grenache grapes, so a fruitier, medium bodied wine, the lighter aspects of Merlot I think, without the heavy tannins.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks! I was needing some direction like that. Everyone who has written has been so kind. I'm impressed. Thank you to all of you.. I cannot wait to get to Paris. I love France and the French people.. I wish I could take out an ad to tell about their gentle, sweet, QUIET spirit and that the bulk of them are not snobs, only embarrassed about their pronunciation of English... !

Posted by
791 posts

Tonya, I am often accused of being a wine snob but I would share some advice given to me years ago by my Italian friend Giovanni; "If the wine feels good in your mouth...this is a good wine for you."

Posted by
8 posts

Also, I'd love some names of brasseries or bistros, to narrow my field, where people have enjoyed decent, economical reds in central Paris. I just read about a little place named "Le Hide" near the CDG Etoile.

Posted by
13388 posts

Tonya, If you're at a good, but not too, too pricey, restaurant in Paris, the red wine listed most likely would be Bordeaux or Cotes du Rhone, some variation of that, such as Cotes du Rhone Villages. For reds at a decent price, I like both of them. If you want to try French white wines, I would recommend the Alsatien restaurant, Chez Jenny, in Paris, located between Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon (don't know the exact address) Personally, I prefer the white wine in Germany given the the choice between that and the Alsatien wines.

Posted by
245 posts

Tonya -
As Brian posted, the Pomerol appellation of Bordeaux generally has Merlot as the dominant grape in the blend. So many fabulous dry reds in France to choose from, though - the Rhones and the Burgundies. And terrific true roses, especially in the south.

Posted by
711 posts

Hi Tonya, I would agree with you that Merlot is on the dryer side, but that's a generalization, of course. The vineyard, vintner, vintage, etc. all can change a grapes character significantly. As for as Merlot in France, you'll get it with just about anything from the Right Bank in Bordeaux (Left Bank = Cabernet Sauvignon). St. Emillion is some of my favorite, and can be quite affordable (or not, depending on the Chateau!). Beaujolais is much more fruit forward than Merlot in my opinion, and Gamay just isn't really a grape that speaks to me. Now, you can get some great Beaujolais, but they're typically at a premium (what defines "great" by the way...) Burgundies are some of my favorite wines in the world, but alas, are pricey (worth it at least once, in my opinion , though...) You might also want to try a Loire Valley wine, from Chinon, for instance. This is Cab. Franc, and is a delightful wine (light/medium body, smooth, balanced fruit). Sancerre is also a great loire, but their reds are Pinot Noir, not Cab. Franc, which isn't as similar to Merlot. The thing to realize, though, is that none of these french wines are going to taste much like their New World counterparts. Old World Wines (france) focus on Terroir and acidity, whereas New World Wines focus on Fruit and Alcohol. Same grape, different experience. Not to say that one is better than the other, but OW wines typically complement food better.
Have fun!

Posted by
4637 posts

I would say that red wines in France (and elsewhere in Europe) are higher in acid than wines here. Some people like it some don't. In France I had the best experiences with wines from Rhone area. And in the world? Red wines from California Napa Valley (especially Cabernet Sauvignon). To make it complete then white wines: the south Moravian region of the Czech Republic (especially Rynsky Ryzlink and Tramin {Rhine riesling and Gewuerztraminer}).