I’m spending a fantastic week in Western France in a villa with some friends at the moment. This is the kind of holiday that is a sneaky reminder that you are a bit grown-up – when did we stop planning holidays based on the availability of hideous bars where cocktails come in fishbowls and you can drink Sangria from a bucket? Reassuringly, though, there has been loads of drinking – the recycling bin bottle count on day 5 is 38 on wine alone. (Remember, LWG encourages responsible consumption and is not a good role model…)
We’ve had a great time, thanks in part to discovering the joys of the French supermarket wine aisle which has some truly great, easy drinking French bargains to offer – cheaper as there’s less ridiculous tax and duty than in the UK and as the vast majority of the wines on offer are homegrown.
I’ve not always been such a fan of French wine, thanks largely to my one-woman crusade against all that is fusty and pretentious in the world of wine. And let’s face it, the French are really good at pretentiousness. French wine is generally labelled by region not grape type, and hard to understand, relying on you as a consumer to know that Sancerre = Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis = Chardonnay. French wine is generally made in a more complex style that goes with food, rather than something you can sit and drink at the pub or while watching TV. French wine is also a lot less consistent – whereas you might know where you are and what to expect from a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, you are more likely to get something you don’t like if you take a punt on something French and unknown.
Having said that, this trip has been a real eye-opener. We’ve done a couple of winery visits, one to a sparkling wine producer and one to a smallish Muscadet producer, and both have been passionate and interested in getting their wine across to a larger audience and in challenging preconceptions. French growers are waking up to a new kind of wine consumer, that doesn’t expect bargain basement bilge but also wants to know what they can expect from the wine they’re buying without a six-week introductory French wine class. And those supermarket 5 Euro bottles have all been either good or great – not a vinegarry vin de table in sight. So while I won’t be abandoning my approachable, reliable new world faves from Oz, New Zealand, South Africa or the US just yet, or ditching my big Italian reds, I will be filling the boot up with some Frenchies for the drive back to Dover. I’ll let you know how I get on!
Santé, and thanks for reading -