LIFE IN FRANCE FOR A WINE LOVER – IT CHANGES YOU
First of all, I want to acknowledge the huge amount of damage to the vineyards of France and much of central Europe by the frosts of the past week, which continue as I write this. It is possible that a majority of the 2021 vintage may be lost. The damage runs from First Growth Bordeaux to Chablis, to Champagne to everyday wines. It is tragic and will be felt for a long time.
I haven’t posted on this blog in quite some time – since November 2019, in fact, during those pre-COVID halcyon days of bliss. The main reason for my absence from these pages, while not from wine, has been that since I have been living in France for 3 years or so now, my experience with wine has changed. It has become more of a relationship with a smaller number of mostly unpretentious and unspectacular wines consumed, for the most part, with meals. If anything, COVID cemented this relationship, as our restaurants are closed and the occasional “special bottle” with a restaurant meal has not been in the mix. When I last wrote about our wine experience living in Lyon (LINK), I was new to the area and just beginning to learn.
While Dorianne and I have extended our pricing for “everyday wines” from an upper limit of about 12€ to about 16€, putting a few second labels from Burgundy in range. Despite this, our average expenditure is likely under 10€ per bottle. This is because I have found a number of labels in the 7€ range that are good enough to drink just about every day. I will list and describe these wines later, but I am not sure that they can be found outside of France. Suffice to say, that for 16€ and under, you can find very drinkable wines from just about any region in France (even Burgundy!). Equivalent wines in the US, in my experience, tend to cost upward of $25.
Another change is that our social circle here is not so wine-centric as the one we left behind in California. The French, with some exceptions of course, view wine as a grocery item. One French friend who loves to drink wine and visit wineries, seldom spends more than 4€ for a bottle. There is a bit more wine talk among the English-speaking expat community here, but not all that much.
Our diets have gotten lighter here and we drink more whites and rosés, especially in spring and summer, but also in winter with fish, salads, and soups.
My purchasing habits here in Lyon are different than they were in the US. I have gradually expanded outward geographically, as each wine shop (cave) here is unique. Each shop has one or two (or more) very good French wines at lower price points; each shop has different wines from the various regions. Most larger supermarkets have some very nice wines on their shelves. Some have more international choices – I get good Spanish, Italian, and Middle Eastern varieties at an Armenian grocery store; Port wines at a Portuguese bodega near the Portuguese consulate; South African wines at a major chain grocery; and even some Penfold’s from my local wine shop.
I have begun to buy more wines online from the producers – wines from Lirac, Tavel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Pommard, Beaune, and the northern Rhône Valley. When we can, we visit wineries and co-ops nearby in Mâcon, Pouilly-Fuissé, also in Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, and Fleurie in the Beaujolais.
Since we have not been back to the US for over a year, our cave has about 6 bottles of California wines left. But it is fully stocked with other wines, about 90% are French, many purchased at the fall wine festivals (LINK) which I hope return this year.
About half the time, we drink wines which are under 20€ and we consider “everyday wines.” I will do another post featuring those wines soon.
As promised, here are our go-to everyday wines for ten euros or less. Le Versant is a favorite. They make other wines as well, but these are the ones available near us. These are wines that I would share with anyone who visits, as they represent their regions well. They are not of premiere cru quality, but they don’t have to be. I would say that each is worth 2 to 3 times what they sell for.
Le Versant Syrah 6,99 €
Le Versant Cabernet 6,99 €
Château Junayme, Fronsac Bordeaux blend 6,35 €
Château Etang des Colombes, Corbières Red Blend 7,40 €
La Bastide St. Dominic, Côte-du-Rhône Red Blend 7,99 €
Le Versant Chardonnay 6,99 €
Le Versant Sauvignon 6,99 €
Le Versant Viognier 5,60 €
Les Orfèvres du Vin, Mâconnaise Aligoté 7,50 €
So that’s what Dorianne and I are drinking most nights with dinner. France offers a wealth of very drinkable wines at very good prices, once you learn what to look for. As we all hope that the local vignerons manage to survive these frosts, let us be grateful for the French wines that we can enjoy today.
As always, your comments are welcomed.
Copyright 2021 – Jim Lockard
7 thoughts on “MY NINE GO-TO EVERYDAY FRENCH WINES”
Jim–Thank you for a very informative article and it will be a challenge for me to be “brief” in this comment section. After reading your article it became clear to me that here in California, we do not have access to CA wines of good quality (reliably that is) as you do in France at such low prices. We definitely have an abundance of “cheap” wines, but they will generally not be of interest to long time wine drinkers on a consistent basis. I suppose if I had to pick one inexpensive winery (wines under $12 dollars) it would be “Bogle”. Wineries of this nature will usually pull grapes from all over CA to make inexpensive wines but we simply do not have the wealth of varietal selections you have wine region by wine region. This was brought home to me this past weekend when I was serving a Spanish Grenache Blanc. I paid $9/bottle–and yes it was a special deal on the price) to pair wonderfully with BBQ shrimp that was somewhat spicey. I can find Grenache Blancs from Spain and Southern France in the $11-
$15 range. One of my guests just happened to bring a wonderful Grenache Blanc from Paso. It was well made and tasted great but it was $28/bottle. Another well known Paso winery sells the Grenache Blanc for $30/bottle. Stylistically the two wines were very different but the spread in pricing had to factor into a decision about what wine to use. I can serve $9-$12 wines all the time and not worry about it if they represent the varietal well and pairs well with the food. In the $30 range I would have to “think” about it more. So that leaves people like me making a game of searching for “bargains” on websites such as WTSO or Garagiste. Garagiste will frequently have good selections in the $10-$16 range but rarely are they from CA. Spain and Southern France seem to dominate the selections and sometimes Italy. So, as usual, you are in the right place Jim and please continue to enjoy and appreciate the abundance of wine selections you have.
Vivino shows your La Bastide Saint Dominique Cotes du Rhone at $20.99/bottle; is your 7 for 10 euro a typo?!
I paid 7 euros and change at a cave in the Azuerge Valley about 15 km outside of Lyon in 2020. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen the wine for sale.
The reason the Saint Dominique La Bastide jumped out at me is that about 5 years ago I spent a week in Cairanne which is right next to Courthezon where St. Dominique is headquartered. Cairanne is a lovely, small hilltop town and the area is recently certified as an AOC, close to CdP. It has some very nice wines of the GSM type and obviously some incredible values if you find the right cave (in France) to purchase them. When I come across a Cairanne wine, I buy it if only for memories, but not for $1.50/bottle in the US!
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Bill, I am familiar with that area as we spent 4 months living in Villaneuve-les-Avignon in 2016. Beautiful area!
BTW, here is one listing for the wine:
Côtes du Rhône AOP rouge 2019 La Bastide Saint Dominique
€8.50€8.50.Vignerons Indépendants95% positive (851)
Côtes du Rhône AOP rouge 2019 La Bastide Saint Dominique – 75 cl – 14% – Vallée du Rhône
So my price is on-target for this area.
Thanks for commenting!
Thanks Jim, great stuff!! I am shocked at you report on the frost. It is the first I had heard of it and it sounds absolutely horrible. First the California fires and now this. I agree that California prices have skyrocketed and are just about out of my reach. I live in northern Idaho so we often drive down to the Walla Walla, Washington region and enjoy a number of very good wineries, however in the past three or four years their prices have just about caught up with California. I have been drinking a number of very good (Tuesday wines we call them) from Italy, Spain, and the Rhone valley in the $12 to $16 range. I am going to forward this to my friend George who owns the wine store where I am a club member and ask if he can get his dealers to find any of the wines you mentioned. Thanks again and I look forward to any wine news you have to pass along.
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Thanks Bob. I imagine that after shipping (assuming they are exported), the wines would cost more, but they should still be a good value.