French Wine Odyssey

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I recently wrote about my fear of French wines. In addition to examining the root of these fears, I also decided to go on a French wine-shopping spree. My goal during this shopping trip was to purchase wine from various regions of France excluding the Loire (not because I don’t like the Loire but because I feel most comfortable there; my wine group spent four weeks studying the Loire earlier this year) to increase my familiarity and comfort level with France. In particular, I wanted to focus on Bordeaux (clearly the less-expensive producers), the Rhone and some of the lesser-known regions, like Bandol or Cahors.

What was the outcome of this vaunted French wine shopping you ask? Were you successful in attaining your goals? To this, I have to answer that I was on quasi-successful. Predictably, I ran immediately ran into two trouble spots. First, as I often do, I got carried away at the first wine shop and blew my entire budget and then some (luckily for me, my husband is good about those things and doesn’t get upset when I spend more than my budget). I was excited to try the wine but upset that I had spent all of my money in one place. This had nothing to do with the wine ship where I purchased the wine but, rather that I had gotten wine that had been selected by the same group of people, cutting down on the variety of what I was trying.

Second, like any good Pinotphile, I couldn’t resist the siren song of Pinot Noir (especially from its birthplace in Burgundy). It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I just can’t resist her. I promised myself that I would avoid the Burgundy section and only purchase one or two bottles of Pinot. Instead, I ended up blowing my budget out of the water in the Burgundy section and purchased nine bottles of Pinot, including two Grand Crus. You can see why I was spectacularly over budget. In addition to the two Grand Crus, I also purchased two bottles from the Pay D’Oc, four more from Burgundy (at varying levels of quality) and one from Oregon (not even part of France I know). I was clearly off task.

Besides the disaster in the Burgundy section, the rest of the trip was largely a success. I ended up purchasing two cases of one (with a significant portion of one case devoted to Burgundy after also purchasing a couple of bottles of white Burgundy). In ended up purchasing a couple of bottles from Bordeaux (with Right and Left Bank represented), a couple of bottles of Beaujolais (including a Grand Cru), a couple of bottles of Cote du Rhone Village and a Condreiu (although I consider my failure to purchase additional Rhone wines to be a failure) and a few bottles from Southern France (Corbieres, Lirac and Bandol). While not a raging success, not a bad start either.

Since the infamous French buying spree, the hubby and I have done a decent job of working down the stockpile of French wine but we still have quite a few left. To accommodate him and spice things up, I throw in occasional bottles of Malbec (which he loves) and a selection of wines from the everywhere but France.

After all of this, you might as what have I learned. First, French wines aren’t as scary as I had made them out to be. I am coming to grips with the fact that French wine labels don’t contain the variety (although a number of producers in the South of France are starting to include them) and that sometimes I might not like the wine style. Second, the French wine buying spree has made me realize that there are some very good priced wines out there (and we have been lucky enough to buy a few of them). Third, I do a great deal of research when we are drinking our French wine, which had increased my overall familiarity and comfort with French wine. Fourth, my husband doesn’t love Burgundy. Zut alors! What am I, a committed Pinotphile and burgeoning Burgunhound to do!

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