France is home to many award-winning wine regions, and luckily Paris has many places to drink wine as well as learn about it. Paris wine bars are a must on any itinerary to the City of Light, but if you want to do more than just sip unknown names, take a class to enhance your knowledge. The subject of wine is one that I don’t think you can ever fully master since there’s so much to know, but I will say that all classes are not created equal. When I heard about a French wine tasting that a French woman was offering in her home, I jumped at the chance not only to expand my wine knowledge but also to do so in a relaxing and très chic atmosphere.
Our hostess was Geraldine de Kersaint-Gilly, a degreed wine specialist, who spent a decade in New York working in wine retail before returning to Paris with her family two years ago to create her company, Wine Dominus. She got the bubbles flowing in her blood at an early age when her grandfather bought a vineyard near Epernay just after World War II. She now offers French and English classes in her home to share her extensive knowledge with eager oenophiles.
Geraldine welcomed six of us into her beautiful home in the 16th Arrondissement to teach us about Bordeaux wines. We sat around a dining room table, complete with maps and reading material related to the region. Instead of diving blindly into a glass, we started by passing around several vials containing different smells that we were told to try to identify. The responses ranged from crayons to licorice to the inevitable cat pee, but we went through the exercise so we could pick out and name some of the aromas in the wine we’d be drinking. It was sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact smell, but it proved very helpful later in singling out certain flavors.
We received a brief history lesson on Bordeaux, its climate and terroir, which helped explain why each bank produces different grapes, and hence different varietals and tastes. We sampled whites and reds from the right and left banks, as well as an affordable, easy-drinking sipper from Entre-deux-Mers.
Geraldine did a nice job of offering wines at all price points, which isn’t always easy when you’re discussing the preeminent vineyards of France. We tasted six different wines while also nibbling on a lovely salmon mousse, followed by well-chosen selection of cheeses. We even enjoyed a dessert made by Geraldine’s own daughter. It was these extra touches that made the tasting more personal and special than one held in a classroom setting.
You can choose from several different classes a month, with prices that are very reasonable for the quality of service provided. Most classes run around 50 euros each, with some as low as 35 euros, or up to 69 euros for a tasting of the grands crus of Burgundy. It’s a good education for a fair price in a very nice, intimate setting.
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