Who doesn’t love an expensive, hard-to-find bottle of French wine every once in awhile? There’s something romantic and alluring about a nice wine from one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world. Of course, I don’t have these wines regularly because my budget won’t allow it (maybe someday!).
Finding a French bottle that is good and easy on the wallet can be tough. More often than not, though, it’s not the price that’s the problem, but more that French wines are, in a nutshell, somewhat intimidating! Between the language barrier and unfamiliar regions, it’s sometimes easier to go with what is more familiar… Napa Valley or Côtes du Rhône? Walla Walla or St-Émillion? I get it.
Once you understand a bit about the French wine regions and their key grapes, they are a bit less intimidating (and you might not have to reserve French wines for when there’s a Sommelier nearby to help guide you). Of course, finding a French bottle that is tasty and inexpensive is another feat. Well, I’m here to help you! Below are three French wines that are not only affordable, but also impressive enough to bring to a dinner party or open any night of the week. They’re all from the Southern Rhône region of France, where the key grape grown is Grenache and where you’ll likely find a great deal.
Côtes du Rhône wines can be medium-bodied and juicy or more full-bodied and tannic, usually depending on how much of the dominating grape is used (Grenache) and what it’s blended with (usually Syrah or Mouvèdre). It’s also a wine with a lot of suitable food matches – from French country-style foods (cassoulet, charcuterie) to pizza to even cheese burgers! Now that I have your attention, fire up the grill and pop open one of these:
2009 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche ($13) – An extremely affordable wine made by a well-respected French producer (pronounced Shah-poo-tyay), this should be a go-to for a nice French weekday wine. It’s soft and balanced with enticing aromas of blueberry, spice, figs and black licorice. Made of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, it’s a lovely blend.
2010 Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve ($13) – Made up of Grenache and Syrah, this widely available wine is produced by the long time winemaking Perrin family. It’s got spice and cherry notes on the nose, complimented by tobacco and cherry flavors. It’s smooth with a nice hit of bright acidity on the finish.
2011 Domaine de Châteaumar Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Bastien ($15) – This French wine is made of 100% Grenache and is a nice, easy drinking sipper at a great price. It’s got noticeable aromas of blackberries, plum, cassis and tobacco. The silky mouthfeel and brandied cherry flavors leave you wanting another sip.