Funny thing is that the wines that tend to naturally demand some time to express their innate character -- thinking of Mourvèdre and Syrah, for example -- also tend to be somewhat less expensive than other wines where winemaking tends to have a more profound impact on any particular wine’s longevity. That makes for some good buying opportunities for people willing, and able, to wait while their wines mature.
Fact is, almost no one cellars wine. Something north of 90% of all wine purchased in the USA is consumed within 24 hours of purchase, and this number fast approaches 100% if the period is extended to two weeks from purchase to consumption. So, if you’re looking for instant gratification and don’t want to spend a ton of money, where should you look? Let’s take a look.
France is full of value wines, and in many cases the values come from some of the same regions as the greatest wines in the country!
I think it’s safe to say that no region in France is better known than Bordeaux, so it might be surprising to many that Bordeaux is also a great region for values, but it’s true. Not only Bordeaux, but a huge chunk of France to the south and west of Bordeaux offers some amazing, character-filled wines!
Bordeaux is the land of Cabernet- and Merlot-based blends. As a general rule you’ll find more Cabernet Sauvignon in the Left Bank wines and more Merlot in those from the Right Bank. Some superb wines are coming from what have generally been referred to as the satellite appellations. Regions like Fronsac, Côtes de Blaye, and Côtes de Bourg have always produced interesting wines but today’s producers are finding ways to produce more refined and better balanced wines than ever.
Duras is a region that could be Bordeaux, if it weren’t for an arbitrary line delimiting France’s departments. Here, just east of Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to dominate the wines, though with a good dose of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, known locally as Côt. While fairly simple, most wines of Duras are meant to be consumed early in their life and are ready to please on release. The climate here is somewhat warmer and drier than that found in Bordeaux, and the wines reflect this climate with their supple texture. Duras is also a producer of rosé, dry and sweet white wines.
Buzet, like Duras, is an appellation that lies to the east of Bordeaux and while the climate here is, for all intents and purposes, identical to that found in Duras, the wines differ to a certain extent in that Merlot tends to be more prevalent in Buzet, and therefore the wines tend to be fairly rich and opulent. There are both rosé and white wines made in Buzet, but they are rare, accounting for only some 15% or so of production.
Further to south of Bordeaux, one finds the region of Gaillac, where the grape blends begin to change from the standard Bordeaux blends. Here one finds a bit of Fer, Syrah, and Duras (the grape, not the region) creeping into the vineyards. There are also white wines produced here as well a bit of dessert wine and sparkling wine. Perhaps most interesting is the Gaillac Primeur, a red wine modeled after Beaujolais Nouveau, right down to the use of Gamay and the release date!
Continuing further down south, and moving into Fer Servadou country, Fer is unlike Cabernet or Merlot, being lighter-bodied, softer, fruitier, and yet retaining a certain rustic astringency that makes it fun to drink and easy to pair with food. In addition to Fer, which makes up some 80% of any Marcillac, one finds little plots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Jurançon Noir in the region. This standard blend also produces some very attractive rosé wines from Marcillac.
In contrast to the fruity wines of Marcillac, the wines from Cahors tend to be quite rich, and robust. Cahors is the home of Malbec (known locally as Côt Noir), though most people today are more familiar with examples that come from Argentina. Cahors vines tend to produce wines that are more tannic and rougher, especially when the 30% that is not Malbec is Tannat, though Merlot is more a common blending grape as the softness tends to temper the Malbec’s roughness a bit. These are great winter wines, full of character and rich enough to stand up to assertively flavored foods.
Read more about French wines
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Most Expensive French Wines
French Sparkling Wine
Wine 101 - The Wines of Bordeaux (Part 1): Left Bank
Wine 101 - The Wines of Bordeaux (Part 2): Right Bank
Wine 101 - Northern Rhone Wines
Wine 101 - Southern Rhone
Wine 101 - Loire Valley Wines
Wine 101 - The Wines of Burgundy