Mapping France in Wine Bottles: Where to Get Affordable French Wine

If you have the impression that finding affordable wine in France is hard – it is definitely time to revisit that stance. My husband and I have taken several road-trips through France, meeting winemakers and tasting wine – much of it high-quality, AOP wines with price-tags that need to be forgiven for their modesty.

Where to go to find rich wine culture and wine to ship home? Let’s hop along and see what’s out there.

Burgundy

Drouhin Wine, Beaune, Bourgogne, France

Maison Joseph Drouhin Mâcon-Villages 2015: This wine is made of 100% Chardonnay, which is the traditional white wine varietal in Burgundy, where precise vineyard location creates authenticity. This producer is a historical fixture in Beaune, with vineyards that dress the region in all directions, and historic cellars that date back to Roman times. The wine is available from my local shop (they ship online orders too) for $16.99.

A visit to Burgundy, Bourgogne in France, is essentially a visit to pure temptation as vineyards and maisons (wine houses, wineries) are dot-to-dot covering the landscape. The food here is rich and full of character; many of the classic, come-to-mind dishes of France originate here including escargot and beef bourguignon (watch Julia Child make it here). This is truly a fascinating place to visit – beautiful, generous, rich in history and bubbling over with delicious experiences. For more on the region, please browse the Borgogne section here at L’occasion.

Further reading: Bourgogne Wines

Bordeaux

Bordeaux Map

I’m really excited to write about Côtes de Bordeaux wines and in fact, I thought about dedicating the entire post to what is going on there (more to come), however I think that positioning these wines as classic French wines, approachable in style and price, is the perfect way to present them. A funny story – whenever we open Côtes de Bordeaux wines for guests, they almost always say something similar to this: oh, don’t open a Bordeaux, don’t waste it on me, I don’t know that much about wine, that is too expensive, oh my goodness you are so generous. The truth is (while we are generous for sharing delicious wine with our friends) none of the classic Bordeaux-is-too-this-or-that fears need to apply.

This is a large AOC (claims to be the largest in France) comprised of the more specific appellations of Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux and Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux. There are also several classifications here, in order of seniority: The 1855 classification, The Graves classification, The Saint-Émilion classification, The Crus Bourgeois du Médoc classification and The Crus Artisans classification.

This is to say that these wines can be quite terroir-driven and made with the highest quality. The region is known for a friendly atmosphere and welcoming people, which flies in the face of the idea that Bordeaux is unreachable. To demonstrate the value of the area, I’m presenting two wines of distinction and value:

Château de Fontenille, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux 2014Stéphane Defraine has been working his historic vineyards since 1989, now utilizing an environmental management system that, to me, echoes the Lodi Rules which honor the environment as well as the community and people who work in the vineyards. This bottle (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) comes in at about $17; I’m impressed that such a careful wine is available at this price.

Château Carbonneau Cuvee Classique, Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux 2014Jacquie and Wilfrid Franc de Ferrière and their children call this place home and hope you will too, at least for a short stay in their luxury accommodations. The family has a lovely story, setting up the dream of restoring this property into the impressive vineyard and luxury lodging that it is today. Cool fact: cattle roam and create natural fertilizer and ground-turning on the land here. There are five bottles in their range and I’m offering the Classique (70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec) which comes at a coin-jingling $12.

Further reading: Vins de Bordeaux

Languedoc

Languedoc Map.jpg

Earlier this week I wrote about the wines and visitor experience at St. Jacques d’Albas in Minervois. Affordable, but capped full of deluxe character and elegance. I have a crush with Languedoc (now, properly title Occitanie, departmentally speaking) which I visited earlier this year. Now I am wrapped up in memories of the richness there. Fields animated with nodding red poppies, mountain views in every direction, fantastic folks with a sense of humor, damn good food and all around saturation of color, light and spirit. The people there offer a distant, dignified welcome for outsiders – not rude, but authentic. Travel stories often paint locals (wherever) as either jolly, back-slapping merry-makers or rude, pinch-up bitches looking to rain on everyone’s vacation. The atmosphere here was much less contrived than that, restful but ready, kind but reserved. Anyway…the wine:

Côté Mas Blanquette de Limoux NV St. Hilaire Méthode Ancestrale: Recently I had a conversation with Bastien Lalauze, winemaker at Domaines Paul Mas and Château Martinolles in Limoux; Bastien makes the sparkling wines. I’ve chosen this wine because if you have a house sparkling wine, you need to have a great story today as you make a sturdy process of popping and pouring. Méthode Ancestrale is an old method of creating bubbles where the winemaker stops the first fermentation before it is finished. The wine is then bottled and undergoes a second fermentation – this all relies on the present yeast to do the job. No sugar is added and no dosage is performed. This wine is made of 100% Mauzac, a traditional local varietal and one that I think tastes fantastic. When drinking Lalauze’s wines I told my husband, this is what everyone wishes they were drinking right now. I have more to tell about our conversation (it turned to the topic of soil pretty quickly and there is even a diagram to show you, but not yet) but for now, get the wine and drink it with your friends. Take a deep breath and get ready to squeal – this wine is priced at around $16. 16 bucks for a bubbly that has tradition and taste. Eek!

Further reading: Languedoc Wines

Provence

Provence Map

I’m in heaven when I’m in Provence and there is always affordable wine at the ready. Red, white and rosé… I have a little favorite spot called Les Baux de Provence, situated in the Alpilles range near the Rhône river. The setting combines elements traditional in Rhône wines with elements traditional in Provence wines. It really is a beautiful spot, with less than 15 producers in the AOP. I’ve written a lot about the area, and visited many times so I hope you’ll dive in and go to heaven there too (not for-real, of course…but in the I-love-this-place sort of way).

Mas de Gourgonnier AOP Les Baux de Provence Cuvée Tradition Rosé: This is a saignée rosé, meaning it was made by bleeding off juice from wine intended to make a red wine. This one is made of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre. There are many opponents to this style of making rosé (at times, I could be one of them) because many people don’t consider it a true rosé – ie, a wine the winemaker set out with full intentions of growing and crafting a pink wine. But, as a scholar of local Provence wine, particularly in this spot where red wine is predominant (in most of Provence it is not) I actually think this method maintains heritage and tradition and is a fine example of the local flavor. It can age up to a couple of years and will cost you somewhere under $15, many times as low as $12 depending where you shop.

Further reading: Vins des Les Baux de Provence

All of the wines I’ve chosen are available in the US and France (probably the rest of Europe too – but I didn’t check) and are regularly priced at less than $20 USD. Some of them were media samples and some I purchased myself or tasted in situ.

The French Winophiles

This month our French Winophiles group turns our normally specific focus to the generally large topic of affordable french wine. We set out to taste and pair wines costing around $20/~€17~£15 (conversions at the moment). Look for posts from the authors below and plan to join our twitter chat (always fun) at 10:00 am central time on Saturday, August 19th, 2017. Look for our hashtag #Winophiles and please join in. I promise that you will walk away with a list of recommendations so bring a notebook. This is going to be very cool.

Here is the slate:

Cooking to the Wine: Casa Rossa Rosé with Sardine & Roasted Zucchini Penne by Nicole at Somm’s Table

An Affordable Red and Tapenade, Languedoc-Style by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Navigating the Languedoc with Domaine Magellan by Lauren at The Swirling Dervish 

4 French Wine Finds $20 and under with Croque Monsieur and Monte Cristo from Gwen from Wine Predator

Each day should be a celebration by Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm

Surprisingly Affordable Wine Region: Bordeaux! by Jeff at FoodWineClick!

My Favorite Under $20 Pet Nat; Patrice Colin “Les Perles Gris” by Martin at ENOFLYZ

Affordable French Wines Paired with Simple Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner by Jane at Always Ravenous

Two Bargains from Bordeaux and Bergerac by Lynn at Savor the Harvest

Mapping France in Wine Bottles: Where to Get Affordable French Wine is our topic here on L’occasion

 

French Food, French Wine, Home in France, Living in France

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36 Comments Add yours

  1. Lynn says:

    You’ve laid out a fabulous wine exploration road trip here Jill! I need to get a french DL so I can legally drive and visit some of these Chateaux. The Blanquette is especially calling my name. Great, educational article, merci!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Yes, I suppose this road trip might take some exploration- motivation to get the DL!

      Like

    2. Jill Barth says:

      The Blanquette is really tasty and fascinating. A totally excellent wine!

      Like

  2. Jill, thanks for showing that affordable wines are available from all over France (well, except Champagne)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      That’s the truth, but we need lots of options at all prices 🙂

      Like

  3. Wendy Klik says:

    One of these days I am going to get to France and when I do, I am taking this map with me!!! Thanks for the great info.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      That map is really cool – A complete source for plotting a trip. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  4. Everyone who wants to know more about affordable French wine should read this post. You’ve given a concise yet thorough explanation of how and where to uncover hidden gems that won’t break the bank. Can’t wait to go back and visit some of the places you’ve mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Thank You! I know you would love any of the wines and places. Hope you do try some out.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post Jill. Each region has something to offer and discover. You sold me on them all!!! I will refer back to your blog next time I plan a trip to France, I hope soon 😉

    Like

  6. I love how you “visited” various region throughout France. Great idea and a great read Jill!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Thanks Martin! I just love that map of wine regions.

      Like

  7. Great overview. You hit the nail on the head, every wine region in France offers affordable options.

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      It is fun learning, no? Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    You’ve outlined so many good options here, and quite a few wines I really enjoy. And you’re right, Blanquette de Limoux is such a lovely option –– and not enough people know about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I’m starting to feel like my calling in life is spread the gospel of Blanquette de Limoux 🙂
      Thanks for reading along (can I get an amen!)

      Like

  9. keithvs says:

    Nice choice of the Gourgonnier. They also make a delicious white. And it is a lovely bike ride from Maussane-les-Alpilles out to the domaine (though if you sip rather than spit, the bike ride back might be challenging!)

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I’d love to try the white, which I don’t think I’ve sampled yet. I’m sure that ride is beautiful – there is so much to appreciate and a bike ride would allow to see all the little bugs, plants and rocks – great suggestion!

      Like

  10. Love all French wines, I particularly love the wines from the Languedoc though and these are always my first choice. So many little vineyards produce wine locally here in the Charente Maritime, wines that are not even heard of and yet they are surprisingly good. When anyone tours France on a wine tour in the wine growing regions I strongly advise them to search out anything locally made too, you never know what you might find!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I’m on it.

      It doesn’t surprise me that there are great producers without a “following” – the world needs a messenger. I love making discoveries.

      These all are available in the US (where I live) but there are many many more without importers that I’d love to study.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Like

  11. junedesilva says:

    Fab post, really informative. How lucky are we to have a home in Occitanie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Super lucky – it’s the life, that’s for certain!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Diane Oui In France says:

    Loved this and will share w/my followers. But serious question, who has the impression that French wine is expensive? Definitely not me! The wineries around me here in Anjou prove it. But grand crus are another story so I get what you’re saying (and anything the US has to import adds $$$). #allaboutfrance

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      It’s an American thing. Though wines from premiere US wine regions carry fat price tags. I think a big part of the perception is the lack of imports to the US from places like Anjou – especially in easy-to-shop spots. However, all of the wines in the story are imported to US, so there is indeed options. And yep, we pay more by the time it gets here and even more in restaurants.

      #AllAboutFrance – thanks for your comment. I’d love some Anjou suggestions!

      Like

  13. nessafrance says:

    Thanks for this helpful rundown of affordable wines in France. We’ve lived in France (SW) for 20 years and have spent a lot of time drinking our way around the vineyards, but we’re always on the lookout for new suggestions. #AllAboutFrance

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      That sounds like a wonderful way to live and thankfully the treasures don’t seem to run out!

      Like

  14. Hilary says:

    What a wonderful post! I’m often at a loss as to what to order, and it’s nice to know that there are some very affordable choices, which also taste great! I’m definitely going to look for some of these here in the US! #allaboutfrance

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Thank you, Hilary – YES, these are all available in the US (hopefully some at your local shop) at the least online. If you try any, please share your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for all of these great tips!! We will definitely be checking some of them out. We’ve visited all the wine regions you mentioned, but were most surprised by some of the great bargains we tried in Bordeaux…sadly we don’t remember many of them which is where your recommendations will help. Thanks again. #AllAboutFrance

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      So much great value in Bordeaux! I agree that the region in full of fabulous bottles to try — you need to refresh your memory with a re-visit.

      Thank you, Janelle. #AllAboutFrance

      Like

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