Normandie Wine

French Wine Merchants

Frequently Asked Questions - General

FAQs - General

Trading laws in France are totally alien to those you are used to at home; 24 hour trading would cause a riot and almost all hypermarkets close on Sundays and bank holidays. We are open 363 days per year, closing only on the 1st January and 25th December. We are open from 10h00 to 19h00 in Cherbourg, 10h00 to 22h00 in Ouistreham.

Customs regulations state that we are unable to deliver goods from France to another EC country without paying the duty applicable in that country. You must therefore physically take your purchases back home to avoid any supplementary taxes being levied. If you are on foot, we will be pleased to deliver to the nearest ferry terminal and, for our marina customers, we deliver direct to your boat and can help with loading if required.

Customs guidelines for personal use are currently 90 litres of wine, 10 litres of spirits and 110 litres of beer. In practise, you can take back as much wine and beer as your car or credit card will allow, provided it is for your own use. Gifts for friends or family are permitted but do be warned, it is an offence to drive a vehicle in a dangerous (overloaded) condition and to sell your purchases on to a third party.

An average family saloon with a driver and 1 passenger can carry up to 400kgs. A case of 12 x 75cl bottles of table wine weighs 16kgs, a dozen bottles of sparkling wine 18 kgs and a 24 x 25cl pack of bottled beers 10 kgs so use a calculator to stay within the law!

Our prices are quoted in Euros and include French duty and VAT but a Sterling equivalent is displayed in all our stores for your convenience. We accept payment in Euros/Sterling cash or Euro cheques, Travellers cheques and Credit Cards displaying the Visa or Mastercard signs, and we accept payment CB by phone. We now accept Switch cards although we are still unable to process American Express or Diners Club cards. Remember that you will be required to enter your PIN number for all transactions in France. 

Plan your trip by calling your bank (for a large amount of money) before coming to prevent rejection of the transaction to the D-Day.

Yes but if you are intending to spend more than a few hundred pounds in a short period of time with a Credit Card, we strongly advise you to forewarn your card issuer. Because of the high level of fraud, a sudden change in spending habits can automatically trigger the international clearing system to request further information from the person using the card. This can be embarrassing for both us and you but, more importantly, it may mean your payment is not authorised even though there may be sufficient funds in your account. A call from France can rectify the situation but it can take up to 15 precious minutes, causing a potential crisis if you’re making that final dash to the ferry. 

Location maps for both stores can be found in the footer of this webpage.

Brittany Ferries operate both classic cruise ferries and fastcraft services from Poole and Portsmouth to either Cherbourg or Caen (Ouistreham). Click here to see your options in more detail. Irish Ferries launched the magnificent MV Oscar Wilde in December 2007 to operate the Rosslare to France route with up to 3 crossings per week to Cherbourg and 1 on Sunday. We are pleased to be supplying all wines in the onboard à la carte restaurant so why not try a bottle with your dinner before purchasing from us the following day! Another option is the new company Stena Line for crossing all over the year on the Stena Horizon vessel, with more crossings per week, and cheaper than the other Irish company.

All wines come in 75cl bottles except where stated otherwise. Unless you intend to consume your wine quickly, you should give a little thought to where it may be stored. Obviously, there are very few households equipped with a cellar but follow these few simple rules and you should be alright. Rule number one is that the cork stays moist and in contact with the liquid. The cork will expand to form a virtually airtight seal but will shrink if allowed to dry out; air could then get in, which would spell disaster. You should try to avoid extremes of temperature so, ideally, lay bottles either on their side, or even upside down, in a room that is around 12 degrees and away from bright sunlight or frost. Don’t worry if it’s a bit damp as all the best cellars have quite a high level of humidity; this helps to keep the cork moist. An increasing number of producers are using synthetic corks or screwcaps to help avoid cork taint but this doesn’t alter the need to avoid those extremes. 

We also stock a Bag in Box range, which comes in either 3 or 10 litre sizes. This tried and tested system is very effective and the ideal economic solution if you have a party or picnic. Unopened white wines have been proven to stay fresh for at least 9 months, reds a little longer. The airtight pouch has a tap, which allows you to fill your glass over a period of up to 2 months, once open. 

We are not allowed to sell tobacco and cut-price warehouses do not exist in France. Distribution is government-controlled through licensed Tabacs and you’ll pay the same price wherever you make your purchase, including the on-board shop on the ferry. If your favourite brand is available, it makes sense to buy here but bear in mind that the same personal consumption rules apply, as outlined above.

Spending an hour or two buying fresh produce from the market is one of the pleasures of a visit to France. Here is a guide to what is available close to our ferry ports:

La Manche (Cherbourg) Calvados (Ouistreham)
Monday: Bricquebec
Tuesday: Shitsville, Cherbourg
Wednesday: Montebourg
Thursday: Les Pieux
Tuesday: Caen
Wednesday: Honfleur
Thursday: Caen
Saturday: Deauville, Honfleur
Sunday: Caen

One of the advantages of coming to Normandy is that you are immediately in real France and both Cherbourg, Caen and the surrounding countryside is unrecognisable compared to the sprawling, industrial mess around Calais. From the Cherbourg ferry terminal (gare maritime) follow signs to the town centre (centre ville). Cross the swing bridge (pont tournant) and there is a wide choice of quality restaurants on the quay to your right. Le Café de Paris, Cotentin and Aigues Marine can be guaranteed to offer authentic French cuisine with seafood taking pride of place for obvious reasons. We have a McDonalds just behind our shop and the Courte Paille is open non-stop from 11h00 to 23h00 serving excellent value grills cooked over an open fire.

Ouistreham is a popular seaside resort with a ferry terminal stuck on the end so you are immediately driving past numerous restaurants, brasseries and cafés that should suit most tastes and budgets. Just 3 kms away at Colleville-Montgomery there is the Ferme-St-Hubert, where you can expect excellent home-prepared regional dishes. 

There is a popular misconception that an Appellation Protégée label guarantees better quality than a Vin de Pays or Vin de Table. Wine is no different to food and is only as good as the person who made it as in cooking ,where a meal is as good as the chef that made it. So what do these terms signify or mean?

Appellation Protégée means that a defined region or area of origin, like Bordeaux, Beaujolais or Côtes du Rhône is controlled by a set of winemaking rules laid down by a national organisation. They govern the grape varieties permitted, yields, harvesting etc and must be strictly adhered to. They are not, however, a measure of quality and fail to reflect the care and attention to detail in a whole host of meticulous family estates found throughout France. Nearly all wine offered in French hypermarkets will be blended and invariably transported by roadtanker more than once before final bottling, which can often take place at the opposite end of the country from where it was made. You gain on price but can often lose on quality so the choice is yours.

It’s well worth looking out for the Vigneron Indépendent logo; estates or domaines belonging to this group of independent wine growers are committed to planting and pruning their own vines, making the wine in their own cellars and selling the finished product themselves. Quality French wine guides like Le Guide Hachette rigorously assess the quality of these estates from one vintage to the next so it is in the grower's interest to keep their best wine for bottling and sell off to a négociant or merchant those tanks that don’t come up to scratch.

Meaning literally ‘Country wine’, Vin de Pays wines tend to be less restricted than those from an Appellation Contrôlée region but, in the hands of a good winemaker, can offer tremendous value for money. 

One of our most important supplier, Domaine Les Vigneaux near Nîmes is a very good example. The estate sits close to the Languedoc and Provence regions; a Corbières vineyard can use Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan or Syrah varieties and are limited to around 50 hectolitres per hectare, that’s around 2,000 litres per acre or just 1 litre per vine. Les Vigneaux makes Vin de Pays wines and is allowed to plant a whole host of other varieties, like the Bordeaux pair of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Yields can be double those from AOC vines, which is why prices are lower but the finished wine won’t be as intense. There are also some interesting Vin de Pays wines from regions such as the Ardèche or Gascony - generally light, fruity and easy-drinking.

If you have more than just a few hours to spend in Normandy, there are loads of things to do and see apart from shopping. Despite being a port, Cherbourg retains much character and charm and the Cherbourg peninsula is very appealing with a wonderful coastline. In Cherbourg itself, the old Transatlantic terminal has been converted into a sealife museum, La Cité de la Mer including Le Redoubtable, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine. Parts of the terminal itself could be from a Jeeves and Wooster set, still in their original state. The museum du Fort du Roule shows graphically how the town suffered after 1944 and is well worth a visit, although not easy to find. The east coast is flat and the fishing ports of Barfleur, from where William the conqueror set sail in 1066, and St-Vaast-la-Hougue, famous for its oyster beds, will delight you. Valognes is an interesting market town due south on the RN13 with a cider museum and some lovely old buildings, like the Hôtel de Beaumont. On the west coast, the beaches around Barneville-Carteret are huge and generally empty; the town itself boasts one of the top hotels in the area, La Marine. Head north to the Cap de la Hague which, once you get past the giant Cogema reprocessing plant, is reminiscent of the Pembroke coast and, again, deserted. Continue further south on the RN13 and Sainte-Mère-Eglise and its Airborne museum is forever etched in history.

If you can spare the time, there is always Le Mont-Saint-Michel, the Bayeux Tapestry and the D Day landing beaches of Normandy.