During the long months of the pandemic lockdown, I’ve been looking for ways to seek travel inspiration. In 2020, I watched the 20 DVD collection of Rick Steves travel shows and enjoyed his book “For The Love of Europe.” I also wanted to get back to European wine.
So I picked up “The Everyday Guide to Wines of France” by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan on Audible. I love audiobooks, podcasts, and the Great Courses have been fun as well. In this review, I’ll share the course’s strengths, weaknesses and then recommend who should get this course.
The Everyday Guide to Wines of France: Strengths
1. Strong Geographical Focus.
There are different ways to approach wine, and I liked how Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan took a regional approach. We start by covering the Champagne region and progressively explore Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley, and Southern France. The course rightly focuses on the best-known French wine regions.
2. Wine Tasting Focus
Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan spends most of each lecture guiding listeners through a tasting of wines in a specific region. In the screenshot below, you can see a screenshot of the tasted wines in the Burgundy region (e.g., the widely available Maison Louis Jadot Beaujolais) and Bordeaux (everything from more challenging to find aged Bordeauxs to newer dessert wines from Sauternes).
3. Beginner Friendly Approach.
The course does not assume any significant background knowledge in wine. While I had some background in studying French wine from a few years ago, I found the course a welcome refresher. In particular, I found the suggestions on food and wine pairings nice to have. I don’t often have lamb, rabbit, or blue cheese, but now I have some different food and wine pairing ideas.
4. PDF Supplement.
Each wine lecture session covers specific wines, and it can be tricky to write down the wine names, especially if you are unfamiliar with French. Fortunately, the 5 page PDF supplement available through your Audible Library is helpful. It lists out every wine covered in the course and provides food and wine pairing suggestions. There is also a good map of France showing all of the country’s wine regions.
The Everyday Guide to Wines of France: What Could Have Been Better
1. Audio Format.
The audio-only format of the course somewhat constrained the passion and skill of the instructor. I suspect that the video version of the course offered by the Great Courses would offer a richer experience.
2. US Focus.
The course assumes an American audience (e.g., comparisons between American wine and French wine, examples of US wine prices). If you’re outside of the US like me, this focus is not ideal. If you are in the US, this focus would probably be an asset.
3. Short Length
Fans of The Great Courses might be surprised at the length of the course. It is three hours and 25 minutes. In contrast, most other Great Courses cover much more ground. To be fair to Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, she does offer longer wine audio courses such as “The Everyday Guide To Wine” (12 hours, 15 minutes). If the shorter Great Course on French wine whetted your appetite, then take a look at Simonetti-Bryan’s longer wine Great Courses.
The Everyday Guide to Wines of Review: Ratings and Review
- Overall Rating: 8 out of 10
- Value: Priced at $9.95, this audio course is a fantastic value and compares favorably in value to an introductory level wine book.
- Production Quality: The audio Great Course is well-produced, and I could hear every word. There is no background noise or production problems. Short music interludes mark the beginning and end of each lecture which I enjoyed.
- Structure and Design: The audio course is well organized into a series of short lectures. While you could do a Netflix-style binge and go through the entire course in a day, that is not what I recommend. Instead, I suggest going through one lecture at a time. In fact, I’m thinking about going through the Great Course at least one more time to drink some of the wines mentioned and take the food and wine pairings for a road test.
- Audience: The Great Course does not assume any background knowledge in wine. It is an excellent introduction to French wine with a focus on tasting a wide variety of wines.
Who Should Buy “The Everyday Guide to Wines of France”?
I recommend The Everyday Guide to Wines of France Great Course on Audible to beginners seeking to build their knowledge of French wine. Remember that you will need to focus and use your imagination during the tasting segments because you will not see photos or videos of each wine being tasted.