Bar­gain French wine? You’d bet­ter be­lieve it …

The Guardian - Feast - - Feast - Fiona Beck­ett

It might seem odd to talk of value for money when it comes to French wine, given that it boasts some of the most ex­pen­sive wines in the world, but in my view it’s hard to sur­pass. Of course, France pro­duces a lot of poor and over­rated wine, too, but it’s still pos­si­ble to find thrilling and af­ford­able bot­tles from ev­ery part of the coun­try – so long as you know where to look.

As prices of pre­mium wines have risen else­where, French wine looks in­creas­ingly good value. The price of cham­pagne, for ex­am­ple, of­ten com­pares favourably with that of English sparkling wine, es­pe­cially if you go for own-la­bel: Waitrose’s cur­rent of­fer on its at­trac­tively creamy Blanc de Blancs Brut (12.5%) at £18.99 (down from £23.99) is a good case in point.

With other styles, it’s a ques­tion of know­ing what names to keep an eye out for, es­pe­cially on res­tau­rant wine lists, where a taste for clas­sics is punished with a hefty markup. Choose Mâ­con Vil­lages in­stead of spendy ap­pel­la­tions such as Chas­sagne-Mon­tra­chet, say, and vi­brant beau­jo­lais rather than pricier op­tions from the Côte d’Or. And the vast swaths of vine­yard in the Langue­doc-Rous­sil­lon still de­liver re­li­ably en­joy­able drink­ing, such as Sains­bury’s ridicu­lously good-value Taste the Dif­fer­ence Langue­doc Rouge 2017, which is now on of­fer at £6.25 – a price that makes it a great house red.

If a wine is from a re­gion you haven’t heard of, chances are it’s bet­ter value than one you have. Reuilly from the Loire, costières de nîmes from the edge of the Rhône, berg­erac from just out­side Bordeaux, ju­rançon sec from the south-west, as well as the ob­scure pacherenc du vic bilh, which also of­fers de­li­cious sweet and dry wines, are all worth seek­ing out. (The Wine So­ci­ety has a lus­cious, sweet, 12% pacherenc from Château d’Ay­die at £12.50 a 50cl bot­tle.)

French wines la­belled with the place they’re made are al­most in­vari­ably more in­ter­est­ing than ones mar­keted by grape va­ri­ety – with the odd ex­cep­tion such as the pique­poul noir and jura chardon­nay in to­day’s side­bar.

You can also look to France for good ex­am­ples of nat­u­ral wines, in­clud­ing on-trend pétil­lant na­turel (AKA pet nat), a hugely charm­ing, gen­tly fizzy style of sparkling wine that’s bot­tled while it’s still un­der­go­ing fer­men­ta­tion. I’ve been drink­ing Mai­son 54 (11%) from Bor­ough Wines this sum­mer, which was so popular it sold out, but has ap­par­ently just come back into stock at £16 a bot­tle. Give it a try. It’s time to make wine spritzes classy again, and this rosé-based one has a lovely, flo­ral nose that’s the per­fect com­pan­ion to any late-sum­mer gar­den party. This sub­tle and el­e­gant drink uses a homemade rose wa­ter and vodka mix that’s great to have in the cabi­net to add aro­mat­ics to all kinds of cock­tails; it keeps for ages, too.

To make the in­fused vodka, stir the su­gar and rose wa­ter into the vodka un­til the su­gar dis­solves, de­cant into a ster­ilised bot­tle and seal.

To make the cock­tail, put a good hand­ful of ice cubes in a stemmed wine glass, then pour over a mea­sure of rose vodka, the wine and lemon juice. Top with soda and gar­nish with rose pe­tals.

Léo Sagel, The Jones Fam­ily Kitchen, Lon­don SW1

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