still the best, say the experts. That’s good news for those of us on budgets.
As Mike Steinberger notes,
This new Judgment of Paris comes at a time when a large segment of the French
wine industry is mired in crisis—a crisis that might have been mitigated
had the French not ignored the message of the first Judgment of Paris. France
is currently sitting on an ocean of unsold wine, a glut that has led to a
collapse in prices at the cheaper end of the spectrum.
When I started buying wine on a regular basis, 15 years ago, it almost never
occurred to me to buy anything French. Australia, of course. Italy, Spain, perhaps.
Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand? No problem. But French was overpriced
and fuddy-duddy and basically only good for Champagne.
When I moved to America in 1997, nothing really changed, although writing about
Latin America for a living was partly responsible for a large uptick in the
amount of Argentine and Chilean wine I bought, and occasional visits to northern
California only served to reinforce my opinion that the wines there are insanely
overpriced and that the average $8 Chilean cabernet will easily beat the average
$24 Napa cabernet.
Evidently, I was not alone in ignoring France: the French share of the American
market for imported wines fell from 26% in 1994 to 14% in 2004, according to
But over the past year or so, I’ve been discovering more and more excellent,
cheap French wines. While the New World wines have slowly been creeping up in
price, French wines have got much cheaper, to the point at which they’re actually
now better value than many of their austral competitors. Not long ago I bought
a case of Les Grès de la Baronne 2001, a Vin de Pays de Hauterives, whatever
that might be. I can’t recall exactly what I paid for it, but I know it was
less than $50. Yes, for the case. And it’s delicious. I have no idea where it
comes from (except for that it’s in France somewhere), or what grape varieties
might be in it. All I know is that it’s a table wine which is probably ever
so slightly past its prime, and if I didn’t pay $4 a bottle for it then it would
probably end up with 100 million liters of other French wine, being converted
Basically, there’s an enormous sale on, with wines being sold below cost, and
we consumers are the beneficiaries. So next time you’re in your local wine merchant’s,
take another look at the France section, and try something new and different.
You’ll probably be shocked at how much bang you get for your buck.