Every dish in the French repertoire comes in multiple intricacies. First, which ingredients go into the dish (the freshness of the produce, the quality of the meats); second, what recipe to use that allows the dish to have the most natural and authentic flavor; finally, what wine will go with the dish.
Wine with the meal is a tradition in France that is as built into the society as hamburgers to the American system. I recall when I was a child, sitting around with my family and my mother would tell me about the French culture- how from the time children were 12 they were given wine to taste; often mixed with water. That tradition has changed, as it came from the 50's, following the war; but the tradition of a perfect matched wine with meals remains intact.
This is where I find myself in a very American in France dilemma- tomorrow night is the 'Reveillon' or the 'News Year's Eve' celebration at my French Family's house. I found out what they will be serving and I've endowed the responsibility on myself to pick out a nice wine to go with the meal- or at least to start it. Where can an American go to get some of these wonderful insights?
First off: Directly to a 'cave' or a specialist in wine sells. Nicolas is a very popular cave in France, and simply by describing to the patron what type of meal, what the price range should be for the bottle and how many people will be there- he will flourish a bottle of wine perfectly matched.
French not quite strong enough to detail a meal?
Try this website: http://www.platsnetvins.com/ It is a wine-accordance website written in French. Simply write into the search box the type of plate you are trying to match (such as Fois Gras, or Porc) and the results will pop out a listing of wines that will match perfectly with the plate.
Still feeling a bit lost; or looking for more specific?
You could try a course in being a Sommelier; or 'Oenologie': http://www.vin-restaurant-lyon.com/cours-d-oenologie.php it's about a spendy 300€ but you'll be guaranteed to have a great outlook on how to match meals.
Some people have told me they live in France and rarely drink wine- it's very rare and sometimes it happens, even in French Families, but the common stance is simple. France is a wine country. It's easy to find a cheap bottle of Cellier des Dauphins in the grocery store for a mere 1.45€ and it will go well with dinner. A glass of wine a night is a healthy lifestyle and it may be one of the many secrets to living a long life- who knows. All I know is I enjoy the wine life and I'm trying to open my mind more in 2011 so I'm not just blindly picking red wines.