Through the many years that I've been in the wine industry, many friends, clients and acquaintances have told me that they don't normally buy French wines. They don't know what to buy, don't know much about them or think that the wines are expensive.
Buying French wine doesn't need to be complicated or expensive. If you aren't drinking or buying French wines, you're missing out on some of the best wines — and deals! — in the wine world.
Go somewhere with a good international wine selection — preferably not a supermarket — and ask the knowledgeable salesperson to direct you to some affordable red, white or sparkling French wines. Help them help you by telling them what wines you typically tend to like best. This will help them pick something suited to your palate.
Tip: Great areas for awesome, cheap whites are: Loire for Sauvignon Blancs; Gascogny for aromatic bright whites; and Muscadet, (which is also in Loire but made from Melon de Bourgogne or Muscadet grapes), or crisp, super light, simple whites classically paired with oysters and seafood (but great for a sunny porch).
Some of the best wines I drink are also some of the cheapest, and they are from France
You can get a great little French white for as low as $8-12( though I typically stick to between $10-$14), and a great dry crisp Rose for a starting price of around $13. There are cheaper Roses but I find $13 to be the starting point for much better ones. The best sparkling wines, called Crémant in France, will be a bit more, but you can still often find a very good one for between $14 to $20. You don't have to spend over $20 if you are not so inclined.
Tip: When looking for easy-to-drink reds at a great price point, stay away from trying to find a bottle from the more known areas like Bordeaux or Burgundy. These might be the most heard of areas in France, but they also have the most expensive wines — and often limited production. Try for a bottle from the Rhône or Costières de Nîmes, where you'll find lots of Grenache- and Syrah-based blends of easy-to-drink reds at great pricepoints.
For reds, I typically stick to $13 and up. Cheaper can be a crap shoot.
French wines are low in alcohol and high in acidity, which means that they are very easy to pair with food. It doesn't need to be a super specific pairing for these wines to shine. Drink a light white before dinner for an aperitif, medium-bodied whites and reds with most meals and heavier-bodied reds with rich foods.
For example, I bring out a bottle of inexpensive, light French white wine or Rose before dinner for an aperitif wine and then again during salad, seafood or light-fare courses.
I put out the easy-to-drink reds for the whole meal. They seamlessly work with anything on the table because affordable French reds are mostly unoaked or very lightly oaken, simple wines without insanely tight tannins and a lot of complexity
Tip: If you want a more complex, full-bodied, tannic red, consider a higher price range, from $15 to $25. Stay away from Bordeaux and Burgundy and look for red wines from elsewhere in France. You get a lot of bang for your buck with wines from other areas in this price range. If you stick to the areas known for producing affordable wines, you can get some fantastic, complex wines you'll be surprised didn't cost more — and would cost far more for similar quality in the United States.
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