As you visit France or its capital city, Paris, you might be wondering some questions about where to go, what to do, where to stay, how much the budget is, and for some, the drinking age in France.
If you enjoy drinking but don’t want to get into trouble with laws, then here are the things you need to know.
In France, the legal drinking age used to be 16 years for beer and wine, just like the drinking age in Spain and Italy, and 18 years for liquor and spirits. Younger teens drinking wine is acceptable only if they are under the guidance of their parents.
However, those days are gone!
According to the new legislation, only 18 years old and above are the ones allowed to drink alcohols, including beer and wine.
On top of this new legislation, the penalties have been considerably fortified: vendors in bars, stores, and other establishments that are selling alcohol to people below 18 might be fined up to €7,500 if the rules have been broken. Breaking any drinking laws in the country comes with monetary penalties.
Aside from knowing the drinking age in France, you have to know that the country is popular for its dining and drinking culture and it’s easy to see why. Each region offers their own types of specialties, and if you don’t want to miss that, here are the important things you need to know.
When ordering coffee in a café in France (which is something you shouldn’t miss) you’ll get a little cup of espresso strong coffee. Many places offer a filtered cup of coffee called café à l'américaine. Below are some terms to remember that will help you make ordering smoother.
- Une Noissette – A cup of espresso with some cream on top
- Cafe Au Lait – A cup of espresso added with hot milk
- Cafe Leger or Allonge – A cup of strong watered espresso
- Chocolat Chaud – Warm sweet chocolate
- Thé au Lait – Nice tea comes with milk you can add according to your preference
- The – Nice tea served with and sugar together with it
You might not be all set for a glass of wine together with lunch as a lot of French people are. If that’s the case, ordering water is always an option. When you order water in a restaurant keep in mind that it is not going to be brought to your table and if you need to have some ice cubes, then ask them nicely.
Before dinner, France has an active ritual drink. If you’re traveling in the southern part of the country, you may not want to miss a glass of pastis, which is the licorice liquor of France. Or maybe you may want to try a kir, which is black currant liqueur with a mixture of either champagne or wine. France has a lot of parts of the country that specializes at cocktail hour and it would be fun trying what the drinks locals usually drink.
A trip to France wouldn’t be complete without trying their wines. Most French regions have their own wine specialties. Here are some French terms just to get you started:
- vin blanc - white wine
- vin rouge - red wine
- doux - sweet
- sec - dry
- vin de table - these are wines that do not have AOC. If you are lucky, you can find good ones, and they are in general less expensive.
- AOC - short for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, which means the wine, needs to meet specific standards and have been grown in a specific part of the country.
As you would expect from a nation that prides wine, there are some right and wrong ways to drink wine. Here is a little guide to French wine drinking etiquette that will make you feel like a local.
- Change your wine option depending on the season
Locals usually the wine they drink from season to season. France’s harvest season takes place month of September and for the nouveau wine types, the most popular wine to have is Beaujolais Nouveau – this is usually enjoyed from the first Thursday of November.
Red wines are always popular during the winter season and through Christmas. If you happen to visit during this time of the year and spending it with the French, then you may want to splurge a little on Châteauneuf-du-Pape. When it gets hotter, that is the time to change to southern rosés and white wines. Make sure to not bring out rosé during the winter, unless you want people to laugh at you.
- Know how to pair your wine
While a lot of dinner parties in different countries are following particular rules on which type of wine to have, the Frenchmen apply this certain rules consistently – wine is hardly drunk as an aperitif. White wine is best matched with dessert, seafood, and fish, red wine goes well with tomato-based dishes and red meat. There are also some types of dessert wines.
- Don’t drink anything except French wine
While French might admire other wines around the world, they are probably going to laugh at you a foreign type of wine. If you want to keep safe, keep in mind that you will never go wrong with French wine.
- Open the wine bottle correctly
That small knife on the corkscrew exists for a reason; it is to remove the edge of the cork before pulling it out. You must not remove the whole foil capsule all over the bottleneck – many French think that it’s a bad thing to do. You have to take off enough in order for the wine to not pass over the foil or it may change the taste.
- Don’t fill the wine glass more than half full
Most French used to not drinking as much as other nations and overfilling a glass in one go may be frown upon. While it may be alight to fill your glass in America and get a bit tipsy, it’s normal for French to be a bit more discreet to carry on drinking to the point that they begin saying things repeatedly.
They would not find it delightful, so it is best to rush yourself. You must not worry about not having enough to drink; you’ll always get top up glasses as soon as your glass gets empty. If you no longer want to drink, then you may want to leave a bit in the bottom the glass so your host won’t refill it.
- Never continue drinking wine after having a meal
Unless you are drinking with your close friends, you may want to try to not carry on drinking when everything is finished drinking. For French people, they see wine as food courses – they usually don’t eat a snack between meals, but there are approximately five meals a day if you include apéritif nibbles and their version of mid-day tea, or le goûter. The dinner parties of French are known for lasting up to the early hours.
If you happen to finish your meal and still feel like trying something else, you always have the option of ordering a nice after dinner drink. Eaux de vie or brandies are popular. Of course, you will be able to find Armagnac and Cognac, but Calvados is also something you may want to try. This is Normandy’s French apple brandy. A lot of people create their own brandies and bar owners will usually serve you a little glass of their home-grown eau-de-vie by the end of a meal, which is usually on the house.
After having all the delicious food and nice drink, you may want to try one of the herbal teas of France to help you digest your food better. Herbal teas, or locally known as tisanes, are easily found in different types as a remedy to almost any kind of situation. Some famous ones include lime flower, verbena, mint, sage, and chamomile.
Knowing the drinking age in France shouldn’t be the only thing you have to be worried about. There are other things you must know to make the most of your time during your stay in France. Hopefully, the information we have in this article helps you make your visit and of course, drinking experience in France more fun and exciting.
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