Last year my family and I had the opportunity to spend Christmas in Paris with the grace and elegance of French traditions. It was an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the customs and festivities that are truly French Style. Paris was all decked out with its holiday lights and decor, making it even more beautiful than normal.
In France, the holidays officially kickoff on December 6th on St. Nicholas Day, and the celebrations continue until twelve days after Christmas. The first official Christmas tree is believed to have first appeared in Alsace in 1521, where the tree was originally covered in red apples and candles.
Paris during the holidays is decorated in all its glory. We loved strolling down the Champs-Elysées shopping and browsing through the elaborately designed holiday windows. Window shopping at Galeries Lafayette put us in the holiday spirit. Lastly, no stop to Paris is complete without a peak at the Christmas Tree at Notre Dame.
Le Réveillon is an indulgent French tradition that I had the opportunity to partake in. It is a luxurious Christmas meal that is enjoyed on December 24th. Being tourist we chose to dine at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant Benoit. Established in 1912, there is no other restaurant in Paris more Parisian than Benoit. We savoured a dinner of oysters, escargot, and turkey.
Typically Le Réveillon is an extravagant meal enjoyed at home. As the French are serious food lovers you can imagine the time, effort and care that is put into preparing this meal. The dinner is typically a decadent multi course meal that can last up to six hours. It is a sacred time to enjoy with family and loved ones.
The dishes served for Le Réveillon are varied depending on the region. Everything is prepared with the freshest local ingredients. In Alsace, goose is served. Turkey, chestnuts and foie gras are preferred in Burgundy. The Breton’s speciality is buckwheat cakes with cream and in Paris the dinner table is adorned with oysters, foie gras, duck, and escargot. Ending with a selection of local cheeses.
For dessert, the common element across all the regions is Bûche de Noël, which literally mean Christmas log. It is a decadent chocolate sponge cake shaped in the form of a log. These are not the only logs you will find in the home during the holidays in France. Yule logs are burned in the homes on Christmas Eve. The logs are made out of cherry wood and doused in red wine to give an aromatic festive scent throughout the home.
When it comes to picking wines for the holidays, the French love to stick to tradition and have Champagne. There is no shortage of great wine in France and the French go all out during the holiday season, drinking the best Burgundies and Bordeaux. Today the French are more modern and adventurous and enjoy a range of wine from Alsace, Loire and Southern France. Below are four wines that are perfect for the holiday season.
Domaine Cauhape Juracon Sec 2017
In 1970, owner, winemaker and label artist, Henri Ramonteu took over his family’s cattle farm in Monein in south-west France. Today, the domaine is one of the most highly regarded in the appellation and the wines are hallmark Jurançon, showcasing the very best of what the region has to offer.
Tasting Notes: The nose has delicate floral perfumes, coupled with notes of apricot and white peaches. On the palate, fresh citrus fruit flavours and bright acidity lift the wine, making it beautifully balanced and refreshingly moreish. Grapes: 60% Gros Manseng, 40% Camaralet. This is an absolutely delish wine with rare grape varietals. When is the last time you had Camaralet?? This wine will pair deliciously with some traditional starters served at Le Réveillon, like oysters and shellfish.
Château de Tracy Pouilly-Fume 2017
Château de Tracy has been run by the same family since the 14th century. Records of the property go back to 1396 when “Les Champs de Crix” vineyard was purchased. Nowadays, this particular vineyard is still planted with Sauvignon.
The Domaine consists of 33 hectares on the slopes around the Château itself (terroir of flint) and those of Vilmoy, a few kilometres away from Pouilly-sur-Loire (Kimmeridgian limestone terroir).
Tasting Notes: Classic Pouilly Fumé with expressive notes of tropical fruit, honeysuckle and lemon, underpinned by hints of boxwood, pepper and a minerality which emphasises the wine’s natural freshness. Harmoniously balanced with a long, elegant finish. This wine is great as an apertif or will pair perfectly with escargot or even various cheeses.
Quadratur Collioure Coume Del Mas 2016
Coume del Mas was created by Philippe and Nathalie Gard in 2001. The domaine now has around 15 hectares of vines, principally on the steep slopes around Banyuls sur Mer. Here, where the mountains meet the sea, man’s role in viticulture is paramount. No tractors can pass in the vines here; even a plough horse can’t reach the majority of our vines.
Quadratur is made from a high altitude old vines with concentrated, low yielding fruit. This cuvée has a traditional blend of grapes – Grenache 50%, Mourvedre 30%, Carignan 20%. If you are preparing a Le Réveillon style meal, this wine is a great match for the main course, like game dishes, turkey, duck or a classic roast.
Chateau Haut Selve Graves 2015
Chateau Haut Selve came into existence at the dawn of the 21st century. Its motto, “Non Nova Sed Nove”, (With the present, make and build for the future), illustrates the passion of its making which remains ours today.
Tasting Notes – This is a classic Bordeaux, inky and extracted but elegant and refined. Nicely balanced and even in its youth, an easy drinking convivial wine with expressive aromas of fruit and earth, cassis and black plum on the palate and a lengthy, very smooth finish. Will pair perfectly with Boeuf Bourguignon or roasted duck.
Explore more French wines and holiday traditions, with articles from my fellow French Winophiles.
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares how to “Give a Little Touche Française to Your Holiday #Winophiles“.
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla whips up “A French #Winophiles Fête: Foie Gras, Pain d’Épices & Champagne Drappier”
- Jill shares from L’OCCASION shares “How To Bring French Holiday Traditions Home”
- Gwen at WinePredator has “Season’s Greetings French-Style”
- Wendy at A Day In The Life On The Farm gives us “A Holiday Gathering with French Foods and Wines”
- Martin at ENOFLYZ Wine Blog shares “A Taste of French Inspired Holiday Food and Wine”
- Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen tells writes about “Ants Climb a Tree with French Wine”
- Michelle of Rockin’ Red Blog writes about “A French-Inspired Holiday Alsatian Style.”
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish tells us about “Parisian Holiday: A Few of My Favorite Things”
- Kat from Bacchus Travel and Tours writes about “Noel en Provence“
- Jeff from foodwineclick discusses “What is French-Style Season?”
- Payal writes at Keep The Peas shares “Bonnes Fêtes à la #winophiles”
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles entices us with “Un repas de Noël pour les fêtes de fin d’année (A Christmas Dinner for the end of the year celebrations)…with wine #Winophiles”
- David Crowley from CookingChat shares “Festive Pairings for Pouilly-Fumé and Other Special French Wine #winophiles“
- Lyn writes at L.M. Archer tells us about “The Hedonistic Taster: French-Style Season Edition”
- Jane cooks things up at Always Ravenous shares “A French Inspired Winter Dinner”
- Nicole from Somms Table shares “Crocus l’Atelier Malbec de Cahors with Château Mercuès Saffron Chicken Soup“
- Liz from What’s In That Bottle tells us how to “Frenchify Your Festivities with Fun Wines“
Be sure to join our Twitter chat tomorrow at 11am EST to discuss French holiday styles and tradition. Wishing you a Happy Holidays! Joyeuses Fêtes!