One of the greatest pleasures of staying at the Yellow Flat vacation apartment in Paris is taking the time to enjoy a good glass of wine out on the balcony. This post will help you to find a good bottle of French red wine to enjoy with your cheese, baguette and pate while you soak up the afternoon sun no matter where you are on your trip to France.
Damn that looks good, doesn’t it?
And to help out your budget, we looked for good wines that will cost you less than 5 euro per bottle, about 6.50 USD at current exchange rates (1.3$ to the Euro).
I first wrote about this subject in a Yellow Flat blogpost in 2010. At the time I found lots of reds to drink and many of my recommendations did not change. Prices remained steady and with the now weaker euro, an already good value is even better.
One of the benefits of travel to France is the wonderful opportunity to learn about reasonably priced French wines that we don’t know about or just aren’t willing to try. Whether enjoying them with a dinner you cooked or by the glass, it is a lot easier buy a bunch when those bottles don’t cost very much. You can try several, just like we did, and have your own wine tasting. When some don’t work out, it’s OK to pour the sucker down the sink.
There are many choices of where to buy wine in Paris, varying from good chain stores (Nicolas) to local wine shops to the grocery store on the corner. I chose the latter. French grocery stores are almost always well-stocked with wines in our target price range.
I was ready. I went to buy 10 bottles of red wine at the Simply grocery store around the corner and find out. And look at this group, these bottles cost under 40 euro (50 dollars). I do wonder what the cashier must have thought as I checked out with these bottles and 2 baguette.
As the photo shows, my efforts focused on red wines. I plan to cover whites next trip.
To cover all of this ground, I organized two wine tastings, one with several Americans who were visiting Paris and one with some French friends to see how each group reacted differently.
It was pretty easy to pick out the wines despite the crowded shelves. I wanted to try wines that often appear in the US at prices between 10 and 25 dollars that I don’t usually drink. Examples were Minervois, Cahors and Bourgueil along with some more well-known regions. Many of my personal choices didn’t make the cut this time. There were no Pinot Noirs, no Chinons and no Gigondas. All were well above the 5 euro threshold.
The shopping cart finally shook out like this:
An assortment of 5 bottles mostly from the South with one from the Loire.
Tasting number one was held with 6 American visitors to Paris and our manager, Thierry, captured here in deep rapturous analysis.
Five bottles that evening, 2 Bordeaux at low and high price points and three from the south. Served the wines with baguette and olive tappenade. We had a great time tasting them.
Here is a summary of the wines we tasted and the comments:
Moncade Bordeaux (no vintage). Cost: 1.72 euro, about 2 U.S. Appellation Bordeaux controlle. No pedigree hat all. 12.5 alcohol. It was pretty obvious from the label that this was the low price leader. Comments were:
Not offensive but no character
Would cook with it
Nothing wrong but nothing right
All in all a lot like the wine you often find in French resatsruants in small pitchers called “pichets”. As the label says, it is ready to drink. Strangely, it wa the only label among the ten that was translated, albeit poorly into English.
Chateau Haut Florin 2009. Gironde. Cost: 4.48 euro, about 5.50 U.S. Grand Vin De Bordeaux from a good year 2009. Made and bottled at the Chateau. 75 Cabernet 25 merlot. Grown in Blasimon, 12% alc.
This is classic Bordeaux light
Wow, it has some tannins
Tastes ok very dry, almost off-putting on the tongue
Would be good with a burger
All in all a nice wine, it won the least left in the bottle st the end of the evening award. A wine that would go well with many foods but nothing serious.
From there we headed south to three relatively well-known sub-regions.
Minervois Pierre Charnau. 2009. Cost: 2.99 euro, about 3.70 U.S. Made by Vins Du Littoral 13.5. Carignane, Grenache and Syrah. Comments were:
Reminds me of a Spanish wine, a Temperanilo
Soft and fruity
Nice on the palate
Fun, ready for the picnic
Could be served lightly chilled
This was a crowd pleaser, one you would happily bring to party to drink before eating or to enjoy with the cheese or grilled chicken.
4. Corbiers Le Grand Portal 2008. Cost: 2.95 euro about 3.65 U.S. Appellation Corbiers. Made and bottled for Cellars Dionosys. 13.5 No grapes disclosed although wines from this region are typically made with Carignane grapes. From the Languedoc R0ussillon region.
I would dump that one
Has a nasty bite
Drinkable only with reservations
This was a wine which seven out of eight of us found to be ok but far from something you would seek out, one of us would dump immediately.
Number 5. Cahors Carte Noir 2009. 2.60 euro or 3.25 U.S.Made and bottled by Cellier Du Sud-Ouest. 13.5%. Made Closer to the spanish border in the south of France
Cahors is known for its dark black purple inky Malbec wines. They are true to the character of the grape, and often way out of control,
Odd nose, called reminiscent of a wet dog
Might taste better with food
Good body, viscous
Made wtih the smallest cork in history
A confusing wine, for those who love this grape only. Be warned, combining Malbec and low prices may be dangerous to your sanity.
In sum, the American group found that these wines were surprisingly good for the price. We agreed that a similar tasting of California wines, i.e. at the same price, would not come close, both in terms of quality and variety. There was only one wine that one of us would have thrown away and two were very good values. A good result.
On to the second round a few nights later. I wondered, just how would our French friends feel about them? It would turn out that not much thought was required that evening. 3 out of 5 wines were pretty pretty bad.
Before starting our tasting and having the ear of several native French red wine drinkers, I asked them if they would buy French wines in this price range. Their answer was a resounding no. The minimum they would pay for a wine they could rely on was 8 euro and more likely over 10. This made sense to me, after all, even though there were some deals in the group, there plenty of duds too.
Bourgueil Selection Pierre Chanau 2010. Cost: 4.28 euro or $5.35. Cabernet Franc. 12.5%. This wine is grown in the Loire. Often lightly chilled, this recommended temperature for service was 15 degrees celsius or 59. That is cool.
Light and pleasant
Easy to finish the bottle
A nice balanced dry wine it went very well with the pate that night.
Les Davier Cote Du Rhone. No vintage. Cost: 1.78 euro or $2.25. 13.5%.
Grape juice with alcohol added
Undrinkable at any price
This is a bottle for construction workers to drink at lunch
Eclat du Rhone. AOC Cote Du Rhone 2011. Cost: 3.67 Euro or $4.60.13%.
How could this be awarded a gold medal
As sweet as a Kosher passover wine like Mogen David
Beautiful bottle but lousy wine
It seems that Cote Du Rhone wines have caught the maladie of fruit forward, high sugar, high alcohol painfully hot wines that dominate the world winemaking palate from Santa Barbara to Perth. At one point one of my friends called these wines ‘parkerize’ or in Enlgish ‘parkerized’ using the name of the famous American wine critic in French to describe this style of winemaking.
Fagieres. Domaine De Haute Serre. 2009. Cost: 4.39 euro or $5.50. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre. From the Languedoc, Southern France.
A small wine
Not a wine we would have again.
To finish the evening we had one more Bordeaux.
2010. Grand Vin De Bordeaux. Gironde. 4.06 Euro or $5.05. Selection Paul Chanau (him again). Aged in oak, blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Soft and fruity
True Merlot character
Not a bottle to age
Have had worse at twice the price
All in all these were not as good of a lot, 3 of 5 were not drinkable.
While we did not come to any conclusions that evening we left quite a bit of wine on the table even though we had a complete dinner and a cheese course, i.e. plenty of chances to drink lots which we did not. The next day I asked our host Marc what he did with the left over wine. With a shrug of nonchalance he replied that he poured them all down the sink the next morning. Guess that said it all.
To try to sum this up, if you want to try wines under 5 euro when visiting France, you will do fine by buying Bordeaux wines in the 4 to 5 euro range. You can even go up a bit, there is lots of choice. There is a lot of history here in turning out reasonably priced well- structured OK to drink now wines. The Southern wines vary quite a bit. They are hit and miss. There is no reason to believe that the next Minervois we drink will as good as the one we enjoyed that night. And I recommend that for the time being you stay away from Cote Du Rhone at low price points unless you have a reference or you are looking for a bit of that fruit forward style during your Parisian stay. Oh, and as you can well imagine, you proceed below 2 euro at your own risk.
It was really surprising to see that corks were still used in 100% of these red wines even at low price points. Just how do they afford this?
There is plenty of good value to be enjoyed during your vacation stay at the Yellow Flat in Paris. If you take up the gauntlet, please comment on any wines in this category that you enjoyed.
Cheers from the Yellow Flat from one of our guests.