When I first came to France nearly 20 years ago I was so excited to be in what I then considered the homeland of great wine. My first wine experience in France was to visit a wine store in a regional town. I was marvelling at all the wine on offer but I was then handed a massive letdown. The only other customer at the time was a local, who walked in with his jerry can, filled in with bulk wine from a petrol bowser like machine and forked over his 1FF per litre. I was gutted. Didn’t all frenchmen just drink the great wines of France? Obviously not.
Wine list disappointment
Twenty years on and not that much has changed. This time I am noticing it in the restaurants. I have been seeking out local neighbourhood bistros and brasseries. The food is solid without being special. The wine lists are crap! The lists are short, lack information, offer very little by the glass and completely lack interest. I am drinking more beer than I expected because the beers are often more interesting or more reliable than the mystery wine choices. Remember that Epernay is a regional wine capital in France and is quite wealthy.
You would think that the local wine industry would be catered for with better wine lists. Obviously not.
Wine list wonderland
I am beginning to think that Australian restaurants beat the French hands down when it comes to restaurant wine lists – in fact Australia may well be the wine list wonderland.
Even in suburban restaurants there is more choice, more detail (eg vintages) and more wines available by the glass. I am sure that Michelin starred restaurants in France have great wine lists but I’m also sure that hatted restaurants in Australia are their equal where the diner can choose interesting, world class wines. Some locals here have expressed the same disappointment but there does not seem to be much change on the horizon. One local mentioned there was a great wine bar in Troyes – an hour and a half drive south from Epernay.
It’s a long way to go for decent glass of wine.