The most stressful part of a French party

On Monday night, we went to a wine and cheese party at the Montpellier home of the brother of one of our Paris friends. (Anne-Claire, whom you may remember from the dinner party where I, um, really made a splash.) “Bring a bottle of wine or cheese to share!” the invitation read.

Now, if you’re like me, choosing a bottle of wine typically involves more scrutiny of the label artwork than of features such as flavor, vintage, and region.

French people are not like me. That is not how they choose wine.

So anyway, here I was, invited to a party in a new city, anxious to buy wine that would, if not impress, at least not embarrass. If I’d been in Paris, I’d have gone to my usual wine store and asked for a recommendation, being sure to point out that it was for a French friend to ensure that the caviste took my request seriously. But here in Montpellier I didn’t know where to go, so I headed for the wine aisle in the supermarket and decided to try my luck with the labels.

I almost picked a white from Alsace because it had mountains on the label and I like mountains, but then I remembered I was supposed to be doing this the French way. The mountain wine said it paired well with heavy dishes like fondue and tartiflette, neither of which sounded at all summery, so I put it back and turned my attention to the whites from Bourgogne, which I know is one of the best wine regions in France. I perused the labels to the best of my French-reading abilities and picked a medium-priced one that said it paired well with charcuterie.

Rarely have I felt so proud as when Anne-Claire’s brother complimented my choice of wine. And, ironically, I realized when I went to pour myself a glass later, I had no idea what the label looked like.

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