Well, we really got a lot of feedback from you Francophiles out there after last week’s Italo-centric email. Okay! UNCLE. I relent! This week, I’ll take a look at some of the greatest deals on the planet for age-worthy wines from France, and as a double bonus, next week’s email will be a special split featuring wines from France, as well as a few other spots that might be familiar to you. France is such a hugely complex country when it comes to wine, it can be especially difficult to navigate. One of the greatest wine regions, Burgundy, for example, is not only complex, but also prone to the fickle fortunes that grapes, winemaker, and Mother Nature dole out each year. OK, so that’s my cop-out way of saying: Don’t look for Burgundy here. Besides, most of the wines of Burgundy, while great, can hardly be classified as values. But that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t find something from France to recommend.
Want more wine?Don't miss the first installment of Starting a Cellar on a Budget, or our round-up of 12 Great Values in Cabernet. While you're there, check out tips for Fixing 7 Common Wine Emergencies and Pairing Red Wine with Fish.
While Beaujolais is part of Burgundy (kinda, sorta), the wines are different, yet similar. Using Gamay instead of Pinot Noir, the wines of Beaujolais start out life fruitier and softer than Burgundy, but as they age, the best do take on the wondrous combination of silky textures, sweet fruit, and autumnal earthy accents that linger on the finish. One great thing about Beaujolais is that, unlike most wines you’re gonna be cellaring, Beaujolais doesn’t shut down. By that I mean they are drinkable throughout their lifespan.
While most people think Beaujolais are meant to be drunk young, and truth be told many are built for early consumption – Nouveau can sometimes barely make it to the new year some 2 months after release – but the best old vine examples can easily improve for a decade or more. My favorite for the cellar has been the Clos de la Roilette from Coudert. It’s a bit more muscular than many, with a great core of earthy fruit.
Two to TryPierre Chermette Vissoux
Charly Thevenet Regnie Grain & Granite
Bordeaux is the big daddy of the wine-collecting world. There are great wines made at many price points but the first growths and super seconds have really skyrocketed in price over the past few year, in no small part due to the eternal cheerleading of much of the critical media who seem to love rolling out the “Vintage of the Decade” banner at least every other year!
But seriously, Bordeaux does produce some of the finest age-worthy wines on the planet, and many values abound. The problem of course is in sifting through all those chateaux to find the winners. Now, what one person calls a value might be a bit of a stretch for someone else, but Bordeaux is a bit different than most of the world’s wine regions. Bordeaux really is more of a commodity, so great vintages might be priced at twice or three times what other vintages come in at. That makes it a bit hard to offer a blanket recommendation, but for my money there is no better value than Margaux’s Chateaux Boyd-Cantenac.
Two to TryChateau Poujeaux
Chateau Lafon Rochet
Here’s a tip: Don’t over look the so-called “lesser” vintages. Often these wines just need more time to show what they’ve got, and while they generally don’t attain the same depth and complexity as the greatest wines, they came damn close at a fraction of the price. 1999, 2002, 2004, and to a lesser extent, 2001 are the value vintages on the market today.
My Secret Selection: Champagne! I really prefer aged Champagne to the fresh stuff that gets put out for sale each holiday season. The complex flavors and soft texture of aged Champagne just feels like money, which is why it usually costs an arm and a leg. How do I get around that, you ask? It’s actually pretty easy: Just lay down a bit of good non-vintage stuff each year and in no time, otherwise known as 5 years, you’ll have a stash of rich, round, mature Champagne to plunder every time you need to celebrate with some Barry White! My pick? Louis Roederer Brut. Did you every wonder where all that Cristal comes from?
Calling all FrancophilesClos de la Roilette
A muscular Beaujolais from Coudert with a great core of earthy fruit.
A top-notch value in Bordeaux, the big daddy of the wine-collecting world.