Print Posted By Lost in France on 20 Jun 2012 in Food and Drink - French food and drink

Food and Wine: Finding the Perfect Balance

WineFood and wine is a combination that remains the staple of the French lifestyle. Whether eating at home or dining out, the people of France know what works when it comes to top cuisine and this doesn't just stop at red wine with meat and white with fish. Across the Channel, a delicate balance between food and wine is key and it pays to know which flavours work well together.

Generally speaking, there are certain distinctions that can be made in types of wine that form the basis of working out the best pairings. Acidic Sauvignon Blanc options are often coupled with prawns and mussels. Wine experts also speak about body in relation to wine; in France, full-bodied wines tend to be matched with robust dishes made with red meat. As the acknowledged experts in this field, it can be insightful to explore different wine-making regions of France and the foods which are considered complimentary to particular variants.

The Rhone Valley in south-west France is home to two distinct types of wine. To the north a dark, spicy red Syrah is produced, which tastes ideal with lamb cassoulet and classic French slow-cooking. The warmer southern valleys create lighter Grenaches and also quality rosés which naturally work with the onion dishes and soups coming out of local city Lyon.

Bordering with Germany, the Alsace-Lorraine is dominated by the white grape including fruity Pinot Gris and sharp Muscat. Influences from German neighbours are evident in Alsatian cooking and wine-making; a version of cabbage sauerkraut is made here with sweet local Riesling, called 'choucroute'.

The great wine region of Bordeaux sits on the west coast and grows world-renowned Merlot and Cabernet-Sauvignon grapes. Paired with beef stews and duck dishes to great effect, the heavy reds of western France also contribute to sumptuous 'bordelaise' sauces. Strong wines match strong flavours and this countryside is also famous for its local truffles and mushrooms. The fresh-tasting white Semillon varieties go well with shellfish and seafood, typically steamed or cooked with butter.

Further inland, red Burgundy grapes are well-suited to the flavoursome coq au vin dishes which reign in the central city of Dijon. Here too, the iconic Dijon mustard is produced from unfermented local whites - specific grapes are not usually named on Burgundy bottles as a rule.

Recognising a good balance between food and drink is not something that comes without a rich cultural and culinary heritage. With wine an essential ingredient in many classic French dishes, this is frequently demonstrated in the valleys and vineyards of this fruitful country. Although there is certainly something to be said for drinking what you enjoy, knowledge of French habits is valuable knowledge to possess, both in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

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