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.
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
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 2014: Stéphane 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 2014: Jacquie 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
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
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