Catch a Ferry

Red wine and cheese, the end of a myth?

For years, we have consumed young wines, low vinified and poor in tannin. Structure meshed well with cheeses. With the evolution of technics and tastes, red wines have become more tannic, rich and no longer suitable for cheese. A sip of red wine on cheese that leaves an unpleasant bitter aftertaste? It is a chemical reaction: the wine tannins are hardened fat cheese.

Bright white wines! Vinification of white wines do not have the maceration step in the fermentation broth. Or is this step that gives the wine its color and also its tannins. White, poor wine tannins support so much better cheese.

What white wine to cheese?

A tip: Prefer a wine from the same region as the cheese. As a general rule:

  • Soft cheeses and washed rind (Munster, Maroilles) with very typical, rich and aromatic wines like Gewurztraminer or a Chateauneuf du Pape.
  • Pressed cheeses uncooked / cooked: with white wine round and structured like white Burgundy.
  • Goat cheese: as the cheese is fresh or cooked him go dry fruity white like a Sauvignon wines from the Loire.
  • Blue cheeses: with a Sauternes or other sweet. A test also with a good old Banyuls or Porto.
  • Soft cheese and rind (Camembert, Chaource): no wine, even white! Too fat, too creamy, they dégagerons an unpleasant bitterness. Pick a cider.

For diehard red wine fans

If you really want to serve red wine, use a soft, round little tannic wine. Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil, some Beaujolais or black Alsatian Pinot.

Be bold and try the "bubbles"

Who said the cheeses had to serve with the wine? Many people agree with champagne, cider and even beer.

What about Champagne and cheese?

For strong cheeses: choose Champagnes vinous and mature.

  • For hard cheeses (Gruyere or County): Choose Champagne fruity and quite young ...

What about cider and cheese?

Soft cheese and crust flowers: use with semi-dry cider.

  • Washed rind cheeses (Livarot, Pont l'Eveque): these powerful aromatic cheeses level demanded raw cider, rich flavors.
  • Cheese cooked pressed cheeses (Comté, Beaufort, French Emmental) serve with raw cider.
  • Hard cheeses uncooked (Reblochon, Saint-Nectaire, Morbier) serve with cider rather sweet and fruity, semi-dry or sweet.

Some advice: do not taste the cider too cold! Ideal temp between 10 and 12 °.

What about beer and cheese?

It is still a well-kept secret: the beer is consistent with the cheese as well as wine. "The agreement beer-cheese is traditional in countries like Belgium and Denmark. Serve cold beer but not ice, not to kill the flavor.

Cheese and tea, the latest trend?

While in France, the cheese is traditionally eaten with wine, growing gourmets initiate agreements with tea. Teas vary depending cheese and serve still warm at the time of tasting.

  • With Camenbert: Use of Japanese green tea torriffié bancha hojicha with aromas of toast, dry wood and fruit.
  • With Pont-Eveque : use a Darjeeling Spring Indian black tea a very rich aroma, with floral notes and plant.
  • With Comté: use a Chinese pu-erh tea or pu'er or a summer fruit aromas and dry cooked darjeeling.
  • With blue cheese: Use a black tea from China Yunnan, flowery and sweet, with notes of honey and wax wood

Now we have a partnership with the company where you can enjoy great benefits at the moment:

- 10% discounts on purchases

(offer not valid on beer, spirits, wines already discounted)

To get this special offer, please show us  your valid boarding pass Stena LINE.

Offer valid until 31/12/2016 in Cherbourg

Our Advice

A wedding is a very special day, a happy but often daunting event. Our advice is to try and keep things as simple as possible; offer guests one white, one red and a sparkling wine for the main event. We pride ourselves in the level and integrity of our personal service; just send us an e-mail with an outline of the food you intend to provide on your day and we will reply immediately with our suggestions of wines or even talk it through with you. We have total confidence in the wines we offer but, if you are still not sure, you can always taste in the shop before you make that final, critical decision.

Red vs White

People are never sure whether to buy more of one wine than the other thinking that guests might drink more white than red or vice versa. The best bet is to go 50 – 50 and, from personal experience, guests will drink whatever is in front of them as the meal progresses so don’t lose too much sleep over getting it exactly right. 

Champagne vs Sparkling Wines

If you can afford it, Champagne is the obvious choice for a special event. Unfortunately, the current worldwide demand for Champagne is so intense that it’s not a cheap commodity. That’s why we offer a wide choice of Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines, bottle fermented exactly the same way as the real thing but generally not as complex and made in other French regions. At about a third of the cost of Champagne, a good VouvraySaumur or Crémant will be more than acceptable and, at the end of the day, if it is to be served solely to toast the happy couple, all your guests will see is a tray of glasses and won’t be any the wiser. At the bottom end of the price scale are the Vins Mousseux, generally poor to medium quality still wines that have CO² pumped into them like all popular soft drinks - useful for making a Bucks Fizz at the evening disco but it would be a shame to spoil your special day by cutting too many corners.

Calculating Wine Quantities and Savings

To help calculate what you need, the following guidelines should help. You should get 6 flutes of sparkling wine and 4 – 5 glasses of still wine per bottle so, if you aim to serve 2 glasses of sparkling wine and a half bottle of still wine per person, 150 guests would need about 50 bottles of bubbly and 75 bottles of red and white combined. Expect to save at least £2/€3 per bottle on still wines, and £3/€5 on a bottle of bubbly by purchasing your wines from Normandie Wine so you would save in the region of £300 or €500 on Irish prices on this quantity of wine. Brittany Ferries offer a 24-hour shopping trip fare almost all year round, priced at between £45 and £65 depending upon the season and including a car and 2 passengers. Irish Ferries offer a return trip including a cabin both ways for around €250, again for a car and 2 people.

Think Weather and Food

Think about the weather you might expect and what food you are planning to serve. Don’t, for example, offer big, oaky and tannic wines in the middle of July and, conversely, a Beaujolais would struggle in the depths of winter if served with a rib of beef. Most couples today offer a fish course so wines like Chablis, Mâcon, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé or even a good Muscadet are very popular. If you want a good value white Appellation wine, then a Touraine Sauvignon, white Bordeaux or Alsace wine are typically very good and, if you are on a tight budget, we have a great range of Vin de Pays varietal wines from the south of France. We have a close relationship with few winegrowers from Loire Valley and either the Sauvignon Blanc or Pineau d'Aunis are really well made.

Popular Wines

A list of classic reds would include Saint-Emilion and Médoc from Bordeaux, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Vacqueyras from the Rhône valley, Beaune and Mercurey in Burgundy and Saumur Champigny and Bourgueil in the Loire valley, to name but a few. Beaujolais is a popular summer red; either a good villages wine or one of the crus like Fleurie, Morgon and Brouilly go well with a cold buffet or ham, chicken and even lamb. Good value wines include Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur, Saumur or, again, a good Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah from Languedoc (Vin de Pays d’Oc) have been popular choices over the years for those on a tight budget.

Visiting France via Ferry

Ferries from Poole or Portsmouth on the south coast of England, or Rosslare in Ireland provide good connections to Normandy, and it’s both quick and simple to book directly on-line with the ferry companies (Brittany Ferries or Stena Line and Irish Ferries). Day trips and special offers are available throughout the year and there is a wide choice of facilities and accommodation on board to make your journey comfortable and enjoyable. From March to October there are several fast craft services available, making a day trip from the south of England a realistic option; with 24 hour return fares as low as £45 for a car and 2 people the savings in France are quickly recouped. Traveling from the Irish Republic needs more time, but return crossings for a car and 2 people on the luxurious Oscar Wilde can be as low as €200 including a cabin both ways.

Ferry Operators from the South of England

Brittany Ferries operate a modern fleet of both classic cruise ferries and fastcraft from either Portsmouth or Poole to Cherbourg or Ouistreham. If you cross the channel regularly as I do you can’t fail to be impressed by the quality of service on offer backed, up by attentive and willing on-board staff. The Normandie Express can occasionally be a bit lumpy, but the level of concern shown if you are feeling unwell or have a young family to cope with is quite honestly exceptional. The company is also making a big push on pricing for 2018, so expect to find even better value for money.

Ferry Operators from Ireland

At Normandie Wine we are in partnership with Irish Ferries and can offer special discounts at certain times of the year on the Irish Ferries service from Rosslare direct to Cherbourg. The route is served by the magnificent MV Oscar Wilde which is every bit as good as the company’s own publicity suggests and boasts levels of comfort and space that you might find on certain cruise liners. Cabins are a huge improvement on the previous vessel the MV Normandy.

Another option is to travel by ferry to France from Rosslare to Cherbourg on Stena Line and get away the easy way to Europe! With the cheapest fares and a choice of 3 ferry crossings a week on the Stena Horizon, pick the time that suits you to travel to France. You can book a cabin so you and your family arrive relaxed and refreshed for your visit to Cherbourg and beyond.

Are you open on Bank Holidays and Sundays? 

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 Caen (Ouistreham).

Do you deliver outside France?

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.

How much alcohol am I allowed to take back with me?

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.

What is the maximum weight I can carry? 

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!

How can I pay and in what currency?

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.

Can I pay by credit card?

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. 

Where are your shops located?

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

Which ferries sail to Cherbourg and Ouistreham?

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 compagny 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.

How should I store my wine?

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. 

Do you sell tobacco?

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.

Are there any markets nearby?

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

 Where can I eat out?

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. 

What is "AOP"?

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 rigourously 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.

What is "Vin de Pays"?

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.

What is there to see and do in Cherbourg?

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.

More Articles ...

Ferry Bookings

Using these links, you will be taken directly to the ferry booking page for the route that suits you best

Brittany Ferries

Portsmouth to Caen (Ouistreham)
Portsmouth to Cherbourg
Poole to Cherbourg

Irish Ferries

Rosslare to Cherbourg

Stena Line

Rosslare to Cherbourg