Wine in France: Don’t Make this Expat Mistake

It’s cold and snowy in France right now. Even Paris was all white this WE, it’s been all over the news!

Well, let’s start with what I told you last week.


I’m happy to present in exclusivity:


(cheering and clapping in the public)

Each week, you will receive videos covering situations you’re struggling with in French. Such as:
– how to get a haircut without being shaved by the hairdresser
– how to add « nuances » to your speech in France
– how to talk with the teachers at school
– should you talk politics with your neighbours and how to do it
– how to avoid the typical « brain freeze » in French
– and many many others

You will then gain self-confidence to speak French, understand conversations in French and make connections with natives.

This week, you will learn how to avoid THE basic mistake expats make when drinking wine in France.

Now tell me in the comments:

Tell me ONE cultural difference you’ve spotted in France about wine.
Was it in a restaurant? With friends? Something you saw on TV?

I ask you this so we can share and discuss together in the comment section.
You, me and all the Comme une Française subscribers (we passed 1500 people!)

I’m looking forward to your comment and feedback on the video, as it’s my first!

A mardi prochain !

Your friend in France,

PS : Do you have expat friends that will benefit from Comme une Française tips? They’ll appreciate you prevent them from making these cultural mistakes!

Join the conversation!

  • It does not mean that you stick to one game and never play another.
    The restaurants never have lines and good tables are always available.
    The company plans to arrange further spreading of table games throughout the continent.
    After a good night’s sleep, I was ready to experience the Poker Room at
    Planet Hollywood.

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  • J’ai une question. Ma mère qui est Française (je suis née en Allemagne et mon père est Canadien) aime argumenter avec moi ou les invités durant un repas en insistant que le vin se fait servir par un homme (on se roule les yoeux là). Elle insiste en disant qu’il doit servir la femme d’abord ou que la femme se laisse servir. La femme ne prend pas la bouteille. Même si c’est discret. Bon, ça pourrait être drôle mais ça emmènes souvent de la tension entre l’hôte ou les invités qui se sentent jugés ou embêté par ses commentaires. On a eu des conversations animées sur le sujet! 🙂 À part la culture qui es différente, j’ai essayé d’expliqué que peut être c’était comme ça avant mais que ça a changé. Peut être que je me trompe? Je connais quelques Françaises qui se servent sans problème. Je peu comprendre qu’on change nos habitudes durant un repas distingué mais quand même, c’est encore comme ça pour servir le vin?

  • Geraldine, I enjoy your website. Years ago, I read an article about an American watching an elderly French man enjoy his lunch with a glass of red wine. He described how the man made the one glass of wine last the entire meal by adding water to his glass at various courses during the meal. Does that sound like a typical way to enjoy wine with a meal or lunch? Thank you so much, Robert

    • Bonjour Robert,
      Ahah, very good anecdote.
      I assume this man didn’t have enough money to pay for more or didn’t want to drink too much.
      Some people will tell you it’s a crime. But between you and me: my dad does it.
      Whether it’s a good thing or not, there’s an expression for this: it’s called “noyer son vin” (noyer = drown).

  • Salut Geraldine! I love your videos! In the ‘what to wear’ section you mentioned a few websites to check out. Would it be possible for you to provide the names of these websites? I am visiting France for two weeks this summer. Merci :))

  • Why un “PETIT verre”…?
    Rouge/Blanc : don’t forget “Rosé” ! Un bon Tavel hmmmmm…
    Pour les” questions”, même si c vrai qu’il est courant aujourd’hui de dire familièrement “Tu veux” par exemple, ce serait pas mal d’utiliser plutôt “veux-tu”, et plu sgénéralement la forme interrogative, dans les didacticiels pour un bon apprentissage de la langue aux “expats”, non ?

    PS. sympa ttes ces vidéos. Et gratuites ! Une bonne idée tout ça…

  • Bonjour Geraldine,

    My husband and I do not drink any alcohol. We may be visiting a friend in France in a few years. How do we politely decline wine that is offered to us?

    I lived in France for a year when I was 20 – I remember having dinner with a French family and when they discovered I did not like wine, they asked me what could I possibly drink with my cheese? I had no clue what to say, so I said “water” (which is sometimes true), and they were horrified! haha! Of course, they did not realize that the “cheese culture” in Canada is much different than in France.

  • Hi Geraldine,
    I appreciate your advice here on proper wine etiquette in France but do the same rules apply for other types of alcohol without food or after 4:00 pm such as beer?

  • I saw the video before I went to a café last night, but when I arrived there was a wine-taste event….so sometimes the French do drink wine in cafés 🙂

    • Hi Irene, Yes! Did you take part in the “soirée oenologie” ? (This is the pompous name we give to wine-tasting)

  • Oh dear! I’m also an Australian and guilty of this! Red wine is really the only alcoholic beverage I drink, and there have been several time while on holiday in Paris where I have met a friend at a bar and had a couple of glasses of wine. Oh well, after all my efforts to dress in a way to blend in, I would have stood out as a tourist after all!

  • Thanks Geraldine for all that good advice! We have noticed in restaurants that we are often given 2 glasses each of the same shape but one larger than the other. Local French people have told us to put water in the larger glass and wine in the smaller one. Do you agree? In England the water glasses are usually a different shape so it is more obvious which is which.

  • Although I live in France, I will always remain British and I am not ashamed of that. I’m aware of the “etiquette’ surrounding the ordering of wine in bars but, although the urge rarely takes me, the possibility that other people in the bar or the person behind the bar would think I’m an alcoholic would not prevent me from ordering a glass of wine if I felt like it. Where is the problem in people realising I am a foreigner? I am a foreigner at liberty to be foreign, as long as it doesn’t offend or upset anyone around me, which I certainly would not want to do. I am actually very much in favour of the French attitude to drinking alcohol, but drinking a glass of wine at 4pm is hardly a crime, especially when I see how long so-called “aperitifs” can often last amongst French people – maybe I am moving in the wrong circles (or the right ones depending on your point of view) as I have rarely seen this limited to one glass of anything! Your video is useful in the sense that I know exactly what to do or not to do if I want to blend in and be inconspicuous in a French bar, but I say, ‘vive la différence’!

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for bring up a good point about not having to be ashamed about being a foreigner in France. I thoroughly enjoyed your post

  • We only drink wine with meals – and usually just one small glass each – maybe because we lived in Paris for three years!

    The comment about the aperitif was interesting.

    I enjoyed the video – nice to see you ‘in real life’.

  • I have seen men in bars drinking wine at 8:00 am and at lunch time and no food was being served. I live in rural SW France but have seen this in Provence as well. But generally, wine is served with food which is a very good idea as the taste of the wine is enhanced by the meal.

  • Bonjour Géraldine,

    I do remember an incident at the local crêperie where my friend and I went for a light evening meal. As we had drunk wine with lunch we were determined to only have 1 alcoholic drink with dinner and both ordered the local aperitif – a Kir Royale – and proceeded to sip it ever so slowly as we chatted and waited for our meals. Time passed and other patrons who had come after us were being served their meals and we were beginning to wonder why we were still without and eventually asked the waiter who then asked the owner to come over to us. He very kindly explained that as we had ordered an aperitif then it was customary in France to wait until we had finished it before serving our food. He had been keeping an eye on us and our order the whole time, but because we were still drinking slowly of course our order kept slipping down the list. Needless to say our drinks were finished in a blink of an eye and our crêpes soon arrived and we had learnt an important aspect of dining etiquette.

    • Bonjour Jenny,

      Thanks for sharing your story with all of us!

      Yes, this is a great example and it was very wise to ask the waiter. In France, the apéritif (even if it’s just a drink) is separate from the whole meal. So it was normal for the waiter to wait.

      Next time, order “une bolée de cidre” with your crêpe! It contains very little alcohol and it perfect with a crêpe. 🙂

  • In our tiny village, red wine is often served with breakfast on fête days and when the hunters are out, and both Blanquette de Limoux and Chardonnay are served at any and, indeed, every occasion – whether there is food or not! But no one drinks to excess and there are always non-alcoholic beverages available for those who do not wish to drink the wine. The “serious” apéro drink is Ricard – not to my taste, but I reckon the place would surely fall apart without it!

    Thanks for your insightful videos and help.

    • Wow, Elaine! What a specific insight! Thanks for sharing this! It looks like a very special and festive day. I’d love to see that! Do you live in the South?

  • This is an extremely useful insight into the French approach to drinking. I’m feeling very embarrassed for the many occasions that I have just ordered wine to drink without a meal. In Australia, we certainly don’t have the same approach to wine which can be drunk often and without occasion or a meal.
    I must now get better acquainted with the French apperitiffs in order to drink something more appropriate in the late afternoon or at pre-dinner drinks. Merci! The video is great! I look forward to the next instalment. A bientot.

    • Merci Diana for taking the time to share you experience in Australia with us, this is what I see on American shows too. Don’t feel embarrassed, you know now! This will make a huge different in how you see wine in France now. That’s a good point!

    • Thanks as ever for the brilliant information. This is always good to know. Also info on wine etiquette when giving a meal to or at a meal with French friends would be helpful. The first time we went to dinner with our mayor who is also a neighbour we took q bottle of wine, and found out later this could of offended him. We did take a gift for his wife. So whats the right thing to do?

      • Hi Donna,

        Thanks for your kind words! On wine etiquette when giving a meal, I’m going to find an expert as I’m not one at all. (My rules are “always white” as my stomach is not keen on red. 😉 ) I’ll let you know when I find somebody to share about this topic!

        Bringing wine is always a good idea. So well done! I don’t see why he’d feel offended. What you see sometimes is people not opening the bottle you bought and putting it in the cupboard. This happens when the wine you bought is not suited for the meal. But don’t feel offended. It’s normal.

    • Omg! This is so embarrassing! I understand you very well Diana! I’ve done the same many times without knowing that it could be a taboo! It’s very nice to know now about the wine culture in France. Thanks a lot Géraldine!

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