We’ve all been in this situation before: you’re out to dinner at one of those restaurants we like to think of as a splurge, and you want to order a bottle of wine, but when the list is presented, you’re eyes turn into saucers, not only due to the list’s size, but also due to some of the bottle’s prices. There has to be an affordable bottle on this list somewhere, but how are you to know if it’s going to be good and where are you supposed to start? If you’re in the mood for French wine – and who isn’t – you’re in luck, because I’ve got the inside scoop on the best affordable French wines hidden away on the list. Just like my recommendations for the best affordable Italian vino, look for these French wine’s and you’ll find yourself pouring a wonderful bottle that won’t cost triple the price you’ll pay for the actual meal.
Reds from Languedoc-Roussillon
Taking up the entire southern Mediterranean arch of Southern France, Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine appellation in the world with around 700,000 acres of land under vine, spanning the eastern Rhone river to the western Pyrenees border neighboring Spain. If you see this area on a wine list the red wines are going to be mostly blends of the native grapes of the area with names like Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Alicante Bouschet and Mourvedre. These wines are true crowd pleasers, they’re well structured with deep dark fruit and good acidity which causes the wine to not weigh too heavy on the palate. If you’re a fan of easy drinking reds, these are the wines for you. These are great wines for meat dishes, but they can hang with seafood dishes in a cream sauce too. This huge wine growing region also produces white wine, but in smaller amounts and these tend to be a bit more expensive, so go for the reds from Languedoc-Roussillon and you won’t be disappointed.
This is Burgundy’s hidden gem and a relative of the famous native Chardonnay. White Burgundian wine prices can make you wanna guffaw, close the list and walk out. But if there is an Aligote on the list the price is gonna make you smile. These wines are clean and crisp with good minerality and flavors of pear. Another little secret is 15% of Chardonnay is allowed to be blended in to this white wine, so you may even get your Burgundian Chardonnay fix at the same time. Double whammy!
Look at the price of Sancerre from the Loire Valley of France (the purest expression of Sauvignon Blanc on the planet) on the list, gasp, take a breath and look for this wine from the same geographical area. Quincy is not pronounced the same as our beloved Jack Klugman Quincy M.E. It’s trickier (Kan-see). These vines are grown just southwest of Sancerre along the Cher River (pronounced the same as our Moonstruck star) on similar soils with just a little more sand bringing out the citrus and herbaceous characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc while still retaining the soft elegance of its neighbor to the west in Burgundy, Chardonnay.
BY KEITH BEAVERS