HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


I think I am done with French wine

Chateau Pesquie 2009, 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache.
Acid burning my tongue some fruits in background.
Could be it has really aggressive tannins and needs another 5 to 10 years in the bottle.
Never had my tongue burning like that before.
In any case I don't think it was worth $20.
I don't know much about French wines other than they have Bordeaux, CDR, CDP
The names baffle me and have no meaning.
Rather than decrypting all this I am sticking with California wines were I can visit the wineries, know what I am drinking, and pay an appropriate price.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Great, leaves more for the rest of us!

    3 Replies
      1. re: jlbwendt

        Exactly what I thought when I saw the thread title!

        Okay, pantani, I won't bring you any wine back from Burgundy! :)

      2. ...my favorites at present are v dry light reds from chile ~15...in my 30s my favorites were v dry french reds ~10-12--macon rouge, chateauneuf de pape are inexpensive & v good imo; but i also coveted v dry chilean the good stuff ~50...but bolder heavier than my current preferences...eg bold ones like medoc but i had a good medoc a couple of weeks ago @ a new restaurant in asheville's river arts district 9 for a european pour...too expensive despite quality imo...if you're willing to try a dry red french but expensive try margaux...~120 or so...careful of the year...i live in "green" country...asheville nc...and have tried the organic non-sulfites but don't like them...

        8 Replies
        1. re: cbjones1943

          The only quibble that I have, is a very personal one - while I keep looking to Chile, with but two exceptions, I have yet to find one that I would buy. I am sure that there are good ones out there (besides the two, mentioned above), but I have yet to try them. With two retailers, and two distributors, I get many mixed cases free, as they know how I feel. So far, they are all "batting zero," though they try very hard.

          I am sure that good to great Chilean wines exist - heck, many here, and respected CH winos, love many. I write down the recs., buy them, taste them, and then ask myself "why?" It's all about personal palates.

          Still, I never turn my nose up at any country's wines, even the UK. I have recently had an interesting UK sparkler, that surprised me.

          I have dozens of Arizona wines in my cellar, however odd that might sound, so I keep an open mind, and taste a lot. Surprises everywhere.


          PS - Asheville, NC, is wonderful country, and maybe where we will retire.

          1. re: cbjones1943

            "chateauneuf de pape are inexpensive"

            May be the first time I have read this.

            I disagree.

              1. re: sunshine842

                I've been shopping for wine for 40 years and have yet to find CdP that could be considered inexpensive.

                I read today (just now in fact) that Trader Joe's sells a $10 CdP - while that is inexpensive, as with "2-buck Chuck'. I hardly think it supports the claim that wines of the type are "inexpensive" .

                Off the top of my head, I can think of no CdP that sells for under $20 and none at that price point.

                You say I'll find "them". List me a few to look for would you?

                1. re: FrankJBN

                  You really don't want to know what I pay for CdP (you'll cry) -- I live in France and drive to CdP to buy mine directly from the producer.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    And, as you know, that's less than what you would pay in Paris . . .

                    Sunshine, that's hardly a fair statement to make, under the circumstances.

                  2. re: FrankJBN

                    I've seen some good Chateauneufs for under $20. For example, K&L was selling Comte Louis de Clermont-Tonnerre "Cuvée Tradition" Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 for $14.99 last year. And I regularly see very good Cote du Rhones in the $10-15 range.

                    Everyone I suppose has a different definition of inexpensive and I'll grant you that most CdPs that I see are over $25. Whether they can be considered inexpensive or not, I think there are many great values. I can get much more from a cdP for $25-40 than I could from a Napa Cab at a similar price point, and that is not so expensive that I wouldn't consider opening it and enjoying it home alone on a weekday night.

                2. re: FrankJBN

                  For really good CndP, I have not found a "cheap one," but obviously have not tried them all.

                  Pretty much the same could be said for Pinot Noir, or even Chardonnay. Each can produce some fine wines, and even some great wines, but it's tough for me to find "cheap" versions, that I really enjoy.


              2. btw...you may reject this suggestion outright; but most v good chain markets...say harris teeter...sell louis jadot...you'd be surprised @ how good they are...maybe you have tried them...

                1 Reply
                1. re: cbjones1943

                  Jadot is a respected négociant. One of his Meursaults, the Les Perrieres, 2004 was one of the best, that I have tasted, and blew the doors off of some other Meursaults at 10x the price. They produce/market/sell some very good wines, and a lot of just good ones. Much depends on the varietal, region and vintage, but even their lower end wines are still pretty good, though not a fan of their Pouilly-Fussiés. Even their Mâcon-Villages can be quite nice, though somewhat one-dimensional.


                2. Making a judgement about an an entire industry based upon one single bottle is a bit shortsighted, and brings to mind noses and spite and faces.

                  The names refer to where they are grown and produced, and have meaning (much more than just saying Grenache or Syrah or Pinot) and like anything else that's worth learning, there's a learning curve.

                  There is a LOT of French wine available for less than $20 a bottle in the US.

                  There are thousands of pages on the Internet that do a decent explanation of French wines, as well as books and any halfway-respectable wine seller in your area.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Well I can't say I didn't expect these responses.
                    I am sure there are French wines worth seeking out, but I would rather spend my time and money on California being that there are more than enough wines here to satisfy my tastes.
                    Most decent wines here say on the label where they are produced and what is in them.

                    1. re: pantani

                      "I am sure there are French wines worth seeking out, but I would rather spend my time and money on California being that there are more than enough wines here to satisfy my tastes."

                      So no wines from Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, Alsace, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Hungary, Portugal, Canada, South Africa, New York, Oregon, Washington, Romania, Turkey (and many, many more) either?

                      You must realize how preposterous and provincial you sound.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        This is the way Europeans (except the wealthy) have traditionally drunk wine -- they eat and drink that which is produced nearby. Makes perfect sense when you think about it. (Although I fancy wines from all over.)

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          You are correct, though mainly with regards to Europe. There is usually little better than the cuisine of a region, paired with the wines of that region. The two, cuisine and wine, grew up together, and evolved together. There is often nothing better, but then many of those regions have had 600+ years to refine their fare.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            which also makes pairing considerably easier -- if in doubt, choose something from the region where the dish originated -- or from an area known for similar flavors.

                          2. re: pikawicca

                            Yes, because there was often little availability of other nations' wines, barring metro areas. If you're from a small village in Piemonte, it's obvious what you'll have access to. Access is not a problem in CA, though I admit it's historically easier to fine OW wines on the East Coast. I've heard that may be changing, which is a great thing.

                        2. re: pantani

                          Please do not misunderstand, but *clearly* you know not of what you speak. It is impossible to be MORE SPECIFIC than to call a wine Bordeaux or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. By that one name alone, I can show you exactly WHERE on a map it was grown, exactly WHAT grapes are in the wine, and (often) exactly HOW the grapes were grown, harvested, and made into wine . . .

                          Where you say, "Most decent wines here say on the label where they are produced and what is in them," nothing is further from the truth -- UNLESS the winery *chooses* to add extra information on a back/side label.

                          For example: a varietal wine must contain no less than 75% of that one grape. (Let's use Cabernet Sauvignon as an example.) What is the other 25%? Unless the winery *volunteers* the information, you have NO IDEA -- the wine could be 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but the rest could be anything, from Merlot to Zinfandel to Chardonnay to Chenin Blanc.

                          For example, if that Cabernet Sauvignon bears a political appellation (e.g.: Sonoma County), 75% of the grapes must come from within that geographic boundary, Where are the other 25% of the grapes grown? Who knows -- could be Sonoma, but it could also be from Napa, the Central Valley, Temecula (Riverside County), or anywhere within California. OTOH, if that Cabernet Sauvignon bears the name of an AVA for its appellation (e.g.: Alexander Valley), well, you know that 85% of the grapes were grown there -- but again, the remainder can come from anywhere.

                          So . . . you tell me: is it a case of one nation's wine labels being more informative and reliable, or is it a case of familiarity -- you being more FAMILIAR with California labels, ergo, they're making much more sense to you; conversely, being less familiar with the labels on French wines, they are more confusing and (perhaps) intimidating.


                          P.S. No one is suggesting you MUST buy French wines, or that you must even *like* them. For purely selfish reasons, I hope you don't -- less demand = lower prices and more selection for me and people like me. People are certainly free to spend their money where and on what they wish, and if you prefer to buy California wines, GREAT! Part of me, and certainly many of my friends still in the California wine trade, applaud your decision -- again, for purely selfish reasons: more money in our pockets! But to dismiss an entire country based (seemingly) upon one bottle of wine you didn't like is, well, astonishing, quite frankly. And has been already said, makes you sound provincial at best, preposterous at worst.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            "By that one name alone, I can show you exactly WHERE on a map it was grown, exactly WHAT grapes are in the wine, and (often) exactly HOW the grapes were grown, harvested, and made into wine ."

                            I don't think you can.

                            Let's try: I have a wine labeled "Bordeaux". You don't need to see label, because "by that one name alone", you claim to be able to tell us "exactly WHERE on a map it was grown, exactly WHAT grapes are in the wine". Please do so. On the map, be clear from which side of the river the wine comes. For those who don't know grapes, please statee whether "Bordeaux" on this label means a red or white.

                            Is this one of the cases where you can tell from that one word "Bordeaux" "exactly HOW the grapes were grown, harvested, and made into wine"?

                            1. re: FrankJBN

                              if it is an AOC Bordeaux, yes, it's possible to know how they're grown, harvested, and made into wine, because the AOC requirements are stringent and very exact.

                              And Jason could tell you because he's forgotten more about wine than you and most of the other posters on this board have ever known.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                While I am sure you have no iidea how much information I have forgotten about wine over the last 40 years and indeed that which I have not forgotten, I will make one response to your defense of the poster I to whom I posted my challenge and one more comment on the cliams made..

                                You say "it's possible to know how they're grown, harvested, and made into wine, because the AOC requirements are stringent and very exact."

                                So what do the AOC requirements say about fermentation in steel, or concrete, or wood? Your implication is that two of these three would be prohibited.

                                Jason's claim I will refute one word: "It is impossible to be MORE SPECIFIC than to call a wine Bordeaux " - Medoc.

                                1. re: FrankJBN

                                  I don't have the exaact requirements to hand -- but the requirements to be allowed to put an AOC label on one's production are long and stringent, and vehemently enforced.

                                  Whatever is restricted, is restricted -- because the AOC growers have agreed on the rules.

                                  And Medoc is a different appellation. Bordeaux AOC is Bordeaux AOC; Medoc is Medoc (and not to be confused with Haut Medoc, Margaux, St Estephe, or any of the other 18 appellations considered a part of the Bordeaux region).

                                  Yes, it's confusing -- Medoc is from the Bordeaux region, but is not a Bordeaux -- and a Bordeaux is not a Medoc.

                              2. re: FrankJBN

                                And it took you seven months to come up with a reply?

                                Frank, elsewhere, you wrote,

                                >>> While I am sure you have no idea (sic) how much information I have forgotten about wine over the last 40 years . . . <<<

                                I could say the same, but let's not turn this into a p***ing match, shall we? Presuming that your statement above is true, then you know EXACTLY what I meant by the statement I made, and you know EXACTLY the point I was making.

                            2. re: pantani

                              For the most part, I'm with you on this one. While there is a whole world of great wine from other places, there is nothing wrong with a localized approach. Pretty much all major varietals are grown here and very well. There is more great wine here than you will ever get to ,so specialize in California if you want. The rest of the world's wines will still be there and after a few years you may be ready to give-em another try. Or not..

                              1. re: budnball

                                Not drinking wine from any place other than California does NOT equal "specialize(ing) in California". It means limiting yourself to California.

                                The OP had ONE bottle of wine he didn't care for (which was far too young to be drinking in the first place) and suddenly the ONLY place in the world that makes quality wine is California? That's a pretty backwards, and, frankly, incorrect idea.

                                Also, just my opinion, but I feel many noble grapes DON'T show particularly well in much of CA unless grown in the ideal microclimate, which the vast majority of the state does not. I'm thinking of CS, CH, SB, PN and more.

                                1. re: budnball

                                  California makes the BEST California wines in the world! France makes the best French wines, and those Italians -- they make the best Italian wines in the world!

                                  The *point* is that they ARE different from one another -- in far more ways than they are the same. No one is saying that someone *must* like French wines . . . or California wines, or wines from any single particular place, If someone wants to buy wines from _______ because they have tasted wines from elsewhere (wines, plural) and found they prefer the wines from __________, that's GREAT, and i'm all for it. But if someone says, "I had a wine once from there, and it sucked; all wines from there suck, and I'm only buying wines from _________" -- well, on the face of it, that seems to me rather simplistic and more a matter of cutting off one's nose to spite their face.

                                  OTOH, there's nothing wrong with, for example, learning about the wines of a particular region, country by "diving in head first," so to speak -- by tasting dozens and dozens of wines from _____________ to the exclusion of all else in order to really get a sense, an understanding, of what that region/country is all about. Or, for that matter, there's nothing wrong deciding to drink local -- whether for political/economic reasons ("Buy American!") or ecological/environmental ones (smaller carbon footprint, etc., etc.) . . . IF that is indeed the reason.

                                  But the reasoning is key, IMHO, and -- speaking strictly for myself -- I find the reasoning as expressed by the OP to be unfathomable as stated.



                                2. re: pantani

                                  On a personal level, there is nothing wrong with that. It is about what one enjoys, and no comments, books, Web sites, or other, should change your tastes. If they change, it should be personal, and over time.

                                  Still, I would urge you to keep an open mind, and not rule out any wine, just because a bottle, or two, that seem similar, were not something that impressed you.

                                  For many years, my wife was focused on big, buttery domestic (US) Chards, and enjoyed them greatly. I introduced her to many FR white Burgs, and in a few years, she became a "convert," though that was never my intent. I just loved those wines, and with certain dishes, felt that they paired better. I applied no pressure, and it just happened. Now, when she's traveling without me, she looks first to FR for whites, where she'd have likely gone with a Tally, a Mer-Soleil, a Shafer Red Shoulders Ranch, or similar, just a few years ago.

                                  There are a lot of wines out there. Same for countries, regions, AVA's, and Sub-AVA's. One uninteresting bottle should not turn you completely off of the wines from there. As I mentioned to another, above, I still look into Chile, though I have had many dozen (hundreds?) of disappointing bottles, and some at very high price-points.

                                  Keep an open mind, and do not hesitate to deviate from your "comfort zone," on occasion. Though I love wines from around the world, probably 30% of my cellar is US, and 99.9% of those are from California.

                                  Most of all, enjoy,


                                  1. re: pantani

                                    California wine law requires that in order to be called a varietal on the bottle, it only needs to be 75% that varietal. So in a word, no. You have no idea what you're really drinking.

                                    aaaand now I feel like a dunce for responding before I read the entire thread, as someone already discussed this upthread. my bad :)

                                3. Why not find a local wine club and join. You can explore new regions with people of similar interest and share your thoughts.

                                  1. IMO: if you only drink french you can drink much better and with more variety for the same money than if you only drink california. what you cannot do is visit and taste. drinking french will necessitate finding a really good wine merchant or two, or three.

                                    either way you can drink well and you needn't spend more than $25 for a bottle.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: jock

                                      < what you cannot do is visit and taste.>

                                      Au contraire, Jock. One is welcome to visit and taste in many wineries in France. True, one must get there first, but one must also get to California.

                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                        and they overwhelmingly welcome you with open arms and enjoy telling you about their wines...and there are so many small and independent French wineries that your chances of buying them from the guy who made them (or his kids, or his wife, or his mother) are pretty high.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          I have found the same thing, with nearly every winery, that I have visited, regardless of the country of location. Even with some of the more "commercial" wineries in CA (California), when the tour buses leave, the staff will warm to you, and break out some of their library wines. It has been an amazing transformation. Most, regardless of whether they are in the US, FR, GR, IT, or elsewhere, love their wines, and want to share with the ones, who linger, and also care. Until the next tour bus arrives, they'll pour their best, and also pour out their hearts, 'cause they love the wines, and hope that you do too.


                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            <"Even with some of the more "commercial" wineries in CA (California), when the tour buses leave, the staff will warm to you, and break out some of their library wines.">

                                            That's funny because I know of several high end CA wineries that won't even allow parties of more than 6 at their tasting room without prior consent, let alone a tour bus. Even a limo . . . they'll just turn you around. The winemaker/owners say parties of more than 6 usually don't buy and are more often than not, on a drinking tour. "Don't need em, don't want em"

                                            1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                              I think that you missed the first part of my statement, the part that included <<the more "commercial" wineries in CA>>

                                              What I was attempting to convey was that even the more "commercialized" wineries can, and will, accommodate the more serious tasters, "when the buses leave."

                                              Now, there are many smaller wineries, and some do have tiny tasting rooms, so should limit the number of tasters, and would not even have room for one of the buses to park. They are not excluded from my reference.

                                              Some years back, I had visited a wonderful little, family-owned winery on a foggy, cold Feb day. I spent the entire morning there, and the "library wines" soon came out. Wonderful time. Lot of fun. Fast forward a couple of months, and I wanted to take my wife to that winery. It had been purchased by a corporate, next-door neighbor, and it was Summer. There WERE crowds. We arrived, and the tasting room was almost full. We waited patiently, and when we got to the counter, the lady pouring recognized me, and recounted our wonderful morning of tasting and conversation, many months before. We started the tasting, and we began conversing. Unfortunately, there was a bachelorette party in the tasting room, and they were drunk, though it was only 10:00AM. They were screaming, spilling wines on each other, and shoving all other tasters around, as they tried to fill their glasses over and over. The noise level was horrible in that small room. Finally, the pourer shouted, "Hey, please keep it down, 'cause we're having a serious discussion about wines over here!" They all pouted for a bit, then left. The dB level fell by about 100. We then spent a wonderful morning with her, and when the other crowds would thin out, she'd bring up the "library wines." A second wonderful morning. After the bachelorette party left, the "tasting room dog," who I had met on that cold, foggy Feb day, even came into the room to meet the people there, and reacquaint himself with me - his "ear-scratching friend."

                                              While I HAVE enjoyed some larger, more "commercial" wineries, when they are not crowded, I try to do many "appointment only," and tiny family-run tasting rooms, like Milat, right on Hwy 29 at the Oakville Cut (not the Oakville Grade).

                                              I do not do well with crowds, and especially if I would like to talk to the server, or to the winemaker. I limit my visits to about 2-3 per day, and fill my day, most often.

                                              Another observation is that I have never paid for a tasting, in Napa, though I have tried, and there are prices posted. With but a little conversation, and a strong interest, I have been invited to barrel-tastings, when none were scheduled. I have been invited to sample "special projects," and had 10-year verticals placed in front of me, when none were being offered elsewhere.

                                              Sorry for the misunderstanding.


                                        2. re: ChefJune

                                          i meant you cannot visit and taste french wineries if you are in california. i visit and taste in france and italy every time i go.

                                        3. re: jock

                                          Once upon a time, I knew a great little restaurant, tucked away behind some big-box retail stores, that offered some great wines, from nearly everywhere. The also had a wine shop, attached to that restaurant. Though the selection was a tad limited, it was extremely diverse. One could pick from dozens of countries, but in the US wines, could choose many wines from a few states, AVA's and Sub-AVA's. The owner was great too, and if you had the opportunity to spend a few moments with him, you would have easily developed a comprehensive view of wines of the world. He could also regale you on other subjects too. Alas, that little restaurant is history, but if one can find such, I highly recommend spending time there and exploring the great, vast world of wine. Nothing better than sampling tons of good wines, and especially with wonderful foods.


                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            I remember that place. Too bad it didn't make it.

                                            1. re: jock

                                              Yes it is, but it managed to garner a warm place in my heart, and my mind.


                                        4. And at this VERY MOMENT, some Frenchman is posting on some French-language food board about how California wines are really flabby and low in acidity, how they are too alcoholic, and how he doesn't know much about California wines other than there are places like "Napa Valley," and "Monterey County," and "Russian River Valley" -- but since they have all sorts of grapes growing everywhere, what do those names mean, and what possible difference does it make, and how can you tell a good one from a bad one, and since they are all so expensive -- what's the point?!?!?!

                                          He's sticking with France, where the names are meaningful, and he can visit the wineries, know what he's drinking, and pay an appropriate price . . . .


                                          2 Replies
                                            1. Sounds like you know what you like and what you don't. Your reasons for liking or not liking certain wines may be flawed. But maybe it's okay to be more confident about what goes into one's mouth versus what comes out of it.

                                              1. So you are giving up before even starting. I grew up in France so my palate was formed with
                                                French wines and I live in Northern CA, where, like you, I have easy access to literally
                                                hundreds of wineries. So I drink about 60% CA and OR wines. However, there are certain
                                                varieties for which there is no escaping France and Italy. I do not think CA wineries have
                                                mastered nebbiolo and dolcetto, so I have to go to Italy for that. Similarly, even though
                                                you can find reasonable cab francs or chenin blancs in CA, I really enjoy much more
                                                Chinons or Vourvrays from France. Likewise, there are decent Cotes du Rhone or CDP
                                                styles wines in CA, but the real thing still cannot be really matched. What you need to do is
                                                focus on French wine producing areas one at a time, and within the limits of your
                                                budget try a sample of each main wine, say for the Rhone valley, try Chateauneuf du Pape,
                                                Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Cotes du Rhone, Saint Joseph (red and white), and so on -- you
                                                can use K&L notes and Cellar Tracker reviews to guide yourself. Then once you have the
                                                lay of the land worked out for that wine producing area, move to the next, say the Loire Valley.
                                                Picking French wines at random from areas you have never heard of will not build
                                                your knowledge base.

                                                1. I think you need a better retailer. Here up & down the east coast Total Wine is kinda like Bev Mo that I have visited in northern California - huge selection, good prices, and little to zero help to the consumer. There are three shops I can go to near home (Raleigh NC area) and say I like wines A, B and C because of X Y Z reasons, and they can tell me what else they are reasonably SURE that I will like.
                                                  One of the three has two guys who know a lot about the Rhone and lower priced Bordeaux and they have Great Prices! They get my business most of the time. A second specializes in Austria and Germany which I buy only in very small amounts, but I see them. The third, well their prices are just too high.
                                                  And yes I've visited enough places in Napa Sonoma & Paso Robles to know what I like and I can pick them up from whomever has the best price, and it usually ain't the winery.
                                                  So please, visit the wineries, buy what you like. But also find a knowledgeable, helpful retailer who sells at a reasonable cost.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: AreBe

                                                    excellent suggestions based on my experience; i don't have a relationship with a wine dealer now (don't have $$ for it any longer); when i did use the same retailer over & over, received recommendations for some really terrific french reds that were affordable; currently i drink a red from Chile ~$15 per; La Pinot (yes, goofy) imported by Grassroots Wine, Birmingham AL; i purchase it @ Greenlife/Whole Foods; blue/white label

                                                  2. Winery: Freemark Abbey
                                                    Origin/Provenance: CA
                                                    Rate: B- (compared to Good French or Chilean of comparable price)
                                                    Price: Don't recall but not cheap, ~$15 ?
                                                    Grape: Not sure, I drink red, not certain if they have whites
                                                    Consistency: Last had this ~10 y ago; in Bible Belt now & have not been able to find it

                                                    1. @ pantani -- If you live in California and said you were sticking to only locally bottled wines with locally grown organic grapes to reduce your impact on the environment, you would be praised as a hero instead of getting grief.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: wadejay26

                                                        Not at all -- there's a pretty big gap of intent between "I hated that ONE BOTTLE I had so I'm never buying anything from that entire country again" (might it have been a bad bottle or a bad pairing?)


                                                        "I'm dedicated to supporting my local producers, so I'm choosing to only buy local wines"

                                                        One is not too far from a 3-year-old stamping her foot mid-tantrum, the other is an adult choice.

                                                        1. re: wadejay26

                                                          Wade, if you had read what I posted above, you would have (in part) seen this:

                                                          >>> . . . there's nothing wrong with, for example, learning about the wines of a particular region, country by "diving in head first," so to speak -- by tasting dozens and dozens of wines from _____________ to the exclusion of all else in order to really get a sense, an understanding, of what that region/country is all about. Or, for that matter, there's nothing wrong deciding to drink local -- whether for political/economic reasons ("Buy American!") or ecological/environmental ones (smaller carbon footprint, etc., etc.) . . . IF that is indeed the reason. <<<

                                                          However this *clearly* was NOT the reasoning stated by the OP.

                                                          And I would dare say that by "sticking to only locally ______________ to reduce (my) impact on the environment," I wouldn't be doing anywhere near as much as I have been to support fishermen in the Gulf post-K and post-BP . . .

                                                        2. Do not let one FR wine change your mind. Just because a wine is from France, does not give it any sort of a "pass." Each must stand on its own. Some are excellent, and some of those are at great price-points, but some just bomb. Not unlike US wines - great ones, good ones, and then bombs.

                                                          Sorry that the particular FR was not a good one, and hope that you did not lay down a case.

                                                          Keep an open mind, and try others. Same for US wines. Try many. Do not concentrate on the varietal, or even the AVA/Sub-AVA, but on the producer.

                                                          Just because a wine is FR, or GR, or US, does not mean that THAT wine will be a great one. No country, no region, no AVA has a lock on great wines.

                                                          Good luck,


                                                          14 Replies
                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                            Ok people, I am giving French wine another chance.
                                                            BTW this is not the first bottle I have had but I have not had many.
                                                            The most memorable was a Bordeaux for about $20 that was good enough to drink several bottles. I think the point I was trying to make is that for me French wine is harder to select than Cali fornia wine. I am going to be more cautious in what I buy.

                                                            1. re: pantani

                                                              find a reliable wine merchant in your area (total and bev-mo are not reliable).

                                                              the posters on this board can help you find one if you let us know where you are located.

                                                              1. re: jock

                                                                Never shopped at Total, but I would agree that Bev-Mo is not reliable. Only shopped there once and that was enough. Saw a bottle of Sancerre on the shelf, love Sancerre, so picked it up, figuring, it's Sancerre, it will be decent. Worst bottle of plonk I have drunk in a long time. Now if I was completely silly, I could say, "oh French wines are terrible" or "Sancerre is terrible."

                                                                One suggestion that was helpful to me when I was learning about wine was in Mark Oldman's books (love his books by the way) where he said to look for certain importers when buying imported wine as a sort of "Good Housekeeping" stamp of approval. Forgot which importers he recommended, but Slate's wine columnist (sorry I forgot his name) wrote an article recommending the follow importers for French wines:

                                                                Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
                                                                Alain Jungunenet/Wines of France
                                                                Becky Wasserman Selections
                                                                Robert Kacher Selections
                                                                Dan Kravitz/Handpicked Selections
                                                                Daniel Johnnes Wines
                                                                Robert Chadderdon Selections
                                                                Jenny & Francois Selections
                                                                Jon-David Headrick Selections
                                                                Willette Wines
                                                                Vintage ’59 Imports
                                                                Martine’s Wines
                                                                Rosenthal Wine Merchant
                                                                Louis/Dressner Selections

                                                                Sure enough, I had a great bottle of Bordeaux recently that I bought based on an email blast from one of my favorite retailers and I looked at the label for the importer and it was Jenny & Francois Selections. And one of my favorite all time wines is imported by Louis/Dressner Selections, which kind of makes me want to drink my way through their entire inventory.

                                                                1. re: omotosando

                                                                  Good advice - sort of. Those are all reliable importers with very few dogs in their portfolios. Each of them will likely have very good wines that you will love and very good wines that you dislike rather intensely.

                                                                  What the wine merchant can do that the importer cannot is guide you through the top importers' portfolios and steer you to the ones that are more likely to suit you.

                                                                  ps - I rank Total Wine as step or two below Bev Mo

                                                              2. re: pantani

                                                                And *my* point was that it (" French wine is harder to select than California wine") actually isn't! The reason you THINK so is familiarity -- you are more familiar with California/U.S. wine labels, and so French (or Italian or Spanish, etc.) wine labels seem confusing. Just bear in mind that if you grew up with a familiarity with French labels, it would be the California ones that would seem confusing and harder to select . . .

                                                                Am I correct in thinking you live in or around San Diego? If so, check out the following stores:

                                                                Vintage Wines -- http://www.vintagewinessd.com/ -- 6904 Miramar Road, Suite 101 San Diego, CA 92121

                                                                The WineSellar and Brassiere -- http://winesellar.com/ -- 9550 Waples Street San Diego, CA 92121-2984

                                                                San Diego Wine Co. -- http://sandiegowine.net/store/ -- 7080 Miramar Rd. Ste. 100 San Diego, CA 92121

                                                                Talk with them. Tell them the kinds of California wines that you like, and dislike, and ask them to show you some French wines they think you might like. Give them a per bottle price range, so they know what you are comfortable spending. Pick up a couple, and try them . . . and THEN -- regardless of whether you liked them or not -- GO BACK to the store, talk to the same person (if possible) and tell him or her what you thought of their suggestions. Try to be as specific as possible with your impressions of the wine(s). Then, ask for more recommendations.

                                                                Although this may seem like a waste of money -- especially if you didn't like the first round of suggestions -- remember that these people have never tasted wine with you before, and only by knowing *your* likes and dislikes can they tailor their recommendations to you. The more they get to know you and your palate, the more "spot on" their suggestions will be.


                                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                                  Don't know if John Lindsey is still at Vintage Wines. He is/was one of the best wine merchants in CA or anywhere else for that matter. I bought literally hundreds of cases of wine from him over the years. Turned me on to some of my all time favorites. Never steered me wrong once he got to know what I liked and it didn't take him long to figure me out.

                                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                                    I live in Encinitas and work in San Diego.
                                                                    I have bought a lot of wine from SD Wine and for the most have been happy with it.
                                                                    I know Vintage Wine is down the street but have never stopped there.
                                                                    I went to their web site and see that they have tastings so I will check them out.
                                                                    Turns out a neighbor works at WineSellar and I have been trying to get together with them but have not yet.

                                                                  2. re: pantani

                                                                    I don't think most people responding were saying to give French wine another chance. Nor do they care whether or not you make good on that statement. Rather, the point was to avoid making generalizations that reach beyond the one bottle of wine you just experienced.

                                                                    To your point about French wine being harder for Joe Consumer to select than California wines are, I would think most United States wine purchaser will go there with you.mainly because in this country we are generally more grape-centric than growing area-centric. But there is a learning curve to understanding what wine labels mean (and don't mean) regardless of where the wine comes from.

                                                                    So, by all means, learn about the wines from France (and elsewhere), if that's what you truly wish to do. On the other hand, if you can live peaceably with the world by drinking nothing more than California wines, that's okay as well.

                                                                    1. re: pantani

                                                                      There can be a few tasks involved with many FR wines - one sort of needs to know the Region, and in Bdx, they should also know the producer, and which of the five grapes, they are likely to be blending, year in, year out. Some, use the same blend all the time, but others let that float a bit. [Same for proprietary red wines in the US, and IT too.]

                                                                      Probably the best way to approach FR wines is to make a list of the things that you like about wines in general, and then find a wine shop, that has both a selection of FR wines, and a knowledgeable staff. Spend a few minutes talking about what you like, what you often eat with the wines, and then share some of the horror stories. Maybe pick up a mixed case of FR wines, and taste them over time. Take notes, as those should be helpful later on.

                                                                      Good luck,


                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        Yes, but Bill -- wouldn't/couldn't you say the same thing about wines from California? Or from OZ, for example, or anywhere else that varietal labeling predominates?

                                                                        In learning about California wines, there are a few tasks involved: learning that (e.g.) Pinot Noir is a red wine grape, while Chardonnay is a white wine grape -- except that you can also make a white (or a rosé) from Pinot Noir, but let's not confuse the issue. You need to know the region -- and that "Sonoma Coast" is different from "Anderson Valley" or "Edna Valley" or the "Napa Valley." And you need to know that *this* producer is different from *that* producer, making wine consistently in _______ style (versus something else). And that . . . .

                                                                        Of course, Bill, I agree with your post above. My point, as I'm sure you know, is that there is just as much -- if not more -- to know/learn about California wines (or Australian or New Zealand, etc.) as there is French (or Italian, or Spanish, etc.). The difference is primarily that California wines are more familiar to (most of) us in the U.S., and so we've already learned many of these things without realizing it -- without having to read books, take classes, etc., etc. We have just "absorbed" it in a way many of us have not/did not with European wines. Further, since most (and certainly the best) European wines are labeled by geography, rather than grape variety, this different "system" of labeling wines seems -- well, *foreign* to many Americans who grew up thinking "Burgundy" and "Chablis" were wines that came in big glass jugs with finger loops and cost $4.99 a gallon! When they see a Burgundy that's $50, $100, $250 for a 750ml bottle, they're horrified! ;^)

                                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                                          Yes, but the OP was talking (at least originally) about FR wines.

                                                                          I do the same with CA (USA) wines, IT wines, GR wines, and most of the rest.

                                                                          Even some of the major AVA's, like Napa, or Sonoma (maybe grandfathered in), can be bleak, though in very general terms, one should expect fairly high quality, maybe like second growth Bdx.? Some things are implied, and should be maintained, year in, year out.

                                                                          No, one needs to learn about the producers, and a bit about their philosophy of winemaking.


                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                            DANGER! DANGER!! WARNING, WILL ROBINSON!!! THREAD DRIFT APPROACHING . . . .

                                                                            Yeah, as if there hasn't been any up until now! ;^) The problem with learning about producers in California is that -- all too often -- the producer (i.e.: the winery) is staffed by a hired winemaker, rather than a winemaker/owner, and -- all too often -- that winemaker leaves . . . either to start his or her own winery, or to go to work elsewhere for more money. And all-too-often (unless one is talking of estate grown grapes), the vineyard sources go with the winemaker, rather than staying with the winery. Thus there can be a radical change in the Napa Cab, with zero indication on the label.

                                                                            Sadly, I've seen this happen far too many times to count . . .

                                                                            1. re: zin1953

                                                                              Yes, that can, and certainly does happen. Also, vintage A might have heavy input from consultant Z, so things can change in a heartbeat. Gotta' stay up to date, for such changes, as they can bring major shifts in focus. Bdx. and Burg. are probably more stable, but not totally immune to change either.

                                                                              Often, one never knows about a major change (even if they read the banter in the front of WS), and must keep up with the changes in each winery.

                                                                              Maybe another reason for supporting "family" wineries, where change seems to be more gradual.

                                                                              Just thinking here,


                                                                      2. re: pantani

                                                                        I do not drink, so my answer may be a bit odd, as I cannot say any of it from personal experience, and I do not have an opinion on any wine personally, but I will say something anyway, as I know a little bit about wines from tagging along to wine stores and helping select for others (generally based what color they stated they want and a type if given or something I've seen them get before ... well, and maybe a bit by what has a pretty bottle or label, heehee).

                                                                        Anyways ...
                                                                        I'm glad to hear that you have not been put off by one bottle. The different name is going to be a region ... so a Burgundy is going to be from the Burgundy region of France, and will typically be in a bottle that has the more tapered sides, where as a Bordeaux will be from Bordeaux, and generally feature a bottle with a more distinctive neck. I'm not all that sure about it, but I do recall some Bordeaux having special numbers, which I believe are supposed to be very good ... Some wines will also be given a number of points, so you can look at that to see how they have been rated by other people ... but in the end, those are going to be based on their tastes. I would recommend trying to find out what the "notes" of the wines you really like are ... I know the wine stores that I have been in often have little tags that explain what a wine is supposed to taste like as far as fruity, tangy, rich, summery, full-bodied, whatever ... If you know what you liked about the other wines, you can try to pick towards that type of wine. Talking to the person in the wine store and making friends is always a good idea, as they will generally have some interesting information as well as opinions of themselves and other customers to aid in your selection. (Pretty bottle ... probably not the best way to pick if you are going for the wine inside ...) If you hey, I really don't like any bottle that I get from this château ... well, maybe it's in the way they prepare or age their wine. Perhaps you prefer the flavor of wine that has been aged in new oak barrels or stainless steel barrels better than wine aged in old oak ...
                                                                        Also, I seem to recall that the year of the wine in France will make a big difference, as it will greatly affect how the grapevines were watered, since if I'm remembering correctly, France's grape crops are highly based on the years season, and not altered greatly by farmers watering to compensate (I'm not sure that is done at all ...).
                                                                        Another thing, if memory serves, a Syrah is a red wine ... two years does seem like a relatively young red ... sounds more like the age for a white. I suspect you may be right that it would have benefited from a bit more time in its bottle somewhere in a wine cellar ... assuming its cork didn't dry out or anything, which although I'm not familiar with what exactly it does, I know doesn't do good things to the wine ... I think it lets it turn to vinegar prematurely. I think there is likely somewhere online or in a wine book that you could look up when wines will be getting to and reaching their peaks. If you keep a $20 bottle of red wine for a while sometimes you end up with something that is more like a $100 wine sitting on your wine rack (covered in dust) ... so sometimes it can be an investment; that might be worth a thought, or it might not be something you're interested in at all.

                                                                    2. California wines have proven they can compete with French wines in many prestigious tasting competitions.

                                                                      I'd love to go into a rant about how French government intervention into the wine industry doesn't promote the competition needed to ensure quality affordable wine, and how our quasi-capitalist approach is part of what helps CA wines thrive (not to mention the climate) but I don't know enough about it to argue and I could be totally wrong.

                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                      1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                        Completely subjective. I would disagree with basically your entire post.

                                                                          1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                            if you were to take the time to learn enough about it to argue, you'd draw your own conclusion pretty quickly as to whether or not you were wrong.

                                                                            1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                              >>> California wines have proven they can compete with French wines in many prestigious tasting competitions. <<<

                                                                              ANY wine can "compete" with any other wine . . . and the BEST wine is the one YOU like the most!

                                                                              >>> I'd love to go into a rant about how French government intervention into the wine industry doesn't promote the competition needed to ensure quality affordable wine, and how our quasi-capitalist approach is part of what helps CA wines thrive (not to mention the climate) but I don't know enough about it to argue and (emphasis added) I COULD BE TOTALLY WRONG. <<<

                                                                              You would be, so best not to argue about it. Indeed, it's probably best not to argue at all, but rather to discuss, and to learn, from all here.

                                                                              1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                When you have a moment, I'd like to hear your rant. I've lived in France 10 years and slowly become aware of government activity in the wine sector. Moreover, my wife's son-in-law is a vintner who represents his cooperative (best in the province) in such matters.

                                                                                What the government does here is subsidize new plantings (67%), and God knows we need them. This is the last bastion of Carignan in the world, and there's still too much of it in our wines.

                                                                                To my taste Carignan is a blending grape (max 35%) though if you're talented and have old vines (at least 30 years), you can make something interesting. Otherwise it's just alcohol and color.

                                                                                I don't know what my favorite vintner does with it (carbonic maceration and more) that no one else seems able to do. He makes a very fruity 100% Carignan bottling that is just a delight for $7. I really do not like this grape except in the best hands.

                                                                                He is going to be a star. He makes one of the few Cotes-de-Rousillon Vilage reds that does not contain Carignan. 35% Mourvèdre (the grape preferred by the best vintners here) plus Syrah and Grenache, a plump red I reach for without hesitation when I have a good piece of meat before me. I buy a case every year (two the first time) and keep telling him to raise the price ($11.50). A wine that never disappoints (Saveur de Vigne is not exported).

                                                                                1. re: collioure1

                                                                                  >>> This is the last bastion of Carignan in the world, and there's still too much of it in our wines.

                                                                                  To my taste Carignan is a blending grape (max 35%) though if you're talented and have old vines (at least 30 years), you can make something interesting. Otherwise it's just alcohol and color. <<<

                                                                                  Well, keep in mind there is a good deal of Cariñena in the wines of Priorat and Montsant, and it's often older than in Roussillon. Also, I know you like the wines of Ridge -- one of the best wines I ever had from Ridge was an old vine Carignane (as it is spelled in the US); ditto with an old vine Carignane from Windsor Vineyards (before Carol Shelton left to start her own winery).

                                                                                  But I agree, not only is Carignan a tough wine to "do right," but it's also a tough sell . . .

                                                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                                                    Jason, is it?

                                                                                    I am sure that we have more Carignan than any other wine producing region. Little by little son takes over from Dad and decides he's going to grow better varieties and eventually stop selling his production to the local co-op, but Carignan is still the reason there is so much tasteless red here. We are still "la piquette de la France."

                                                                                    Up the road in Languedoc they're way ahead of us. There big operations from the north of France could buy huge tracts of vineyard and in short order produce those vins de pays you probably know so well. Not here. The parcels are small and they have no presses. One of the new arrivals here, a former wine journalist, bought 50 parcels to assemble just 28 hectares. Then his village told him he could not construct his winery there! He's a star.

                                                                                    As I said this grape is interesting on vines of at least 30 years of age. And new arrivals from abroad seek vineyards with such. I'm sure that's what Ridge has.

                                                                                    1. re: collioure1

                                                                                      I *never* said there was MORE Cariñena in Spain than there is Carignan in France, merely that there is a good deal planted there. As with the Sourthern Rhône and the Languedoc-Roussillon, Garnacha (Grensache) is the star, with Cariñena (Carignan) playing a supporting role.

                                                                                      Depending upon sources, as of 2000:

                                                                                      EU -- 95,700 ha / 236,480 acres (but down from 167,000 ha / 412,666 acres in 1988)
                                                                                      France -- 59,210 ha / 146,311 acres
                                                                                      Spain -- 7,000 ha / 17,297 acres

                                                                                      As of 2011:
                                                                                      Calif. -- 1,373 ha / 3,393 acres

                                                                                      1. re: zin1953


                                                                                        I still think Roussillon remains the reigning Carignan champion in the world, not a wonderful distinction IMO.

                                                                                        Not a great proposition to replant. The French govt pays 2/3 of the cost of new vines, but then you have to wait several years before the harvest from those vines can be included in an AOC wine.

                                                                                        1. re: collioure1

                                                                                          From The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Ed:

                                                                                          >>> vine pull schemes --schemes whereby growers receive some sort of incentive to pull out vines, a process known as arrachage in French. The most comprehensive of these schemes to combat various wine surpluses is that embarked upon by the european union in 1988, which in the first eight years encouraged growers, mainly in southern France and southern Italy, to pull out a total of 500,000 ha/1,235,5400 acres, more than the entire vineyard area in the world's fourth biggest grower of vines, the United States. This reduced the EU surplus by an estimated 25 million hl. Many ageing vine-growers in these areas have come to expect this vine pull payment as they come to the end of their working life, regarding it as a retirement bonus. In few areas, however, have satisfactory alternative agricultural uses for the land been found. In 1998, the European Commission proposed retaining its grubbing up scheme for a further transitional period as part of a major reform of the wine sector. The plan put before European Union farm ministers proposed targeting member states and regions that were systematically over-producing wines for which there was little or no demand. With the reform of the EU Common Market Organization for Wine in 1999, a shift in policy created new planting rights for 51,000 ha/126,021 acres. <<<

                                                                              2. The thing that can add complexity in choosing wine for us Americans is that we have had wine marketed to us as varietal "flavors" (i.e. Chardonnay, Carbernet, Sauvignon). In other countries like France the flavor comes from the place the grapes are grown. So even after you've discovered that Chablis is Chardonnay it still might not come close to meeting your expectation.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                  re: "Chablis is Chardonnay"

                                                                                  Chablis is austere Chardonnay. Meursault corresponds more closely to what you know as Chardonnay.

                                                                                  1. re: collioure1

                                                                                    I wouldn't make presumptions . . . I, for one, drink far more Chablis than I do Meursault. Also, I believe "Chinon00" is saying the same thing as you are:

                                                                                    Chinon00: "So even after you've discovered that Chablis is Chardonnay it still might not come close to meeting your expectation."

                                                                                    Collioure1: "Chablis is austere Chardonnay. Meursault corresponds more closely to what you know as Chardonnay."

                                                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                                                      Now, I drink far more Meursault, than Chabilis, but that does not diminish either Chardonnay. OTOH, I drink even more Corton-Charlemagne and Montrachet, than the others combined, and by maybe 50%. Still, no dissing others.


                                                                                2. I feel bad for you, but at least you'll still have cali wine...

                                                                                  1. Simple solution: befriend a local retailer in a wine shop. Avoid big box stores (TW/BM and self-serve grocery stores) Tell them the styles of wines you prefer and let them show you a few choices. Go to free or cheap tastings.
                                                                                    Smaller shops trade on their good advice; larger stores sell SKU's (anonymous line items) and big box workers are paid to sell higher-margin store brands.
                                                                                    Not a commercial at all but since you mentioned the above wine, go find a bottle of 2010 Michel Gassier Côtes du Rhone Villages Visan Cercius ($17). It should change your mind about French (Rhone) wines.

                                                                                    1. I live there. I must admit - my last few visits to California (annually) I have enjoyed super wines, but they aren't cheap at all. The art of wine has arrived in California. Wines that don't just win tastings, but also go with food.

                                                                                      My wine fridge is filled with wines for which I pay $10-14 - virtually all French - and I drink well every night. Dollar for dollar for food-friendly wine, I still think France has it.

                                                                                      But you have to understand

                                                                                      red Burgundy = Pinot Noir
                                                                                      white Burgundy = Chardonnay
                                                                                      Sancerre/Pouilly Fumé = Sauvignon Blanc
                                                                                      red Bordeaux = Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet France/Merlot blends
                                                                                      white Bordeaux = Sauvignon Blanc with some Semillon

                                                                                      The dry Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, Pinot Blancs and Pinot Gris from Alsace are labeled by grape and you have few equivalents there.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: collioure1

                                                                                        I agree,

                                                                                        While my cellar reflects about 60% US (read California), France is a strong # 2, with GR, IT and PT (if you factor out my Ports), bringing up the rear.

                                                                                        For "food friendly," FR is my immediate first thought, and with good reason - to my palate, it excels, over all others, including the wines of IT.

                                                                                        To dismiss some of the greatest wines in the world, is hurtful to one's self - "cutting off the nose... " so to speak.


                                                                                      2. Oh God, do I wish the OP was the entire Chinese wine-buying public!

                                                                                        1. I understand and relate to the OP. I live in Cali, have many good friends that own vineyards and wineries, and visit and taste in California on a regular basis. I pick up most of my wine directly from the winery and feel that I get the most bang for my buck by buying local. Probably upwards of 65% of my modest cellar is California wines. I also buy a fair amount of wine direct from local wineries when I'm in Oregon.

                                                                                          Don't get me wrong, I buy and enjoy foreign wine. Especially from France, Spain, Italy and New Zealand. But with foreign wines I just don't have the same confidence that I have in California wines. I don't know how they were shipped or how they were treated during shipment. Whereas the vast majority of wine that I buy I know exactly where it has been (from winery to my hands) and how it was treated. I also know that the vast majority of foreign wine I see for purchase domestically, is fairly large production (almost always >500 cases and usually >5000 cases). I personally believe, that in general, the very best wines come from vines that have very limited production (either through age, dry farming, or vineyard management). The main access that I have to wines like this come from sources I know and visit regularly.

                                                                                          Lets face it, most of the small production stuff (which is often the best vino), no matter where it is produced, is consumed domestically.

                                                                                          21 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                            For quality in foreign wines stick with dependable importers.

                                                                                            I presume the principle of limited planting has been discussed here - that is, that when you double the number of vines, you only get 20% more taste/extraction. I had just learned this in the early 90s when I went cycling in Burgundy. So we walked our bikes past a couple of rows in Richebourg or La Tache. Sure enough the vines were very far apart.

                                                                                            1. re: collioure1

                                                                                              Also in vineyard management, the process of dropping green fruit and limiting production that way, allows the vines to put more energy into a limited amount of fruit ,which in my opinion usually produces better fruit and more complex wines. Again, in my opinion and in my experience for my taste, I believe that the best vineyards are producing < 5 tons of grapes/acre (of course there are always exceptions). It is the wine from these vineyards (often producing < 2 tons/acre of fruit) that I truly covet and enjoy the most.

                                                                                              1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                Unfortunately, low yields almost always equates to higher wines prices. You pay for quality.

                                                                                              2. re: collioure1

                                                                                                Even dependable importers have limited control over weather and handling. How was the trip over on the ship? How much sloshing around did the wine endure? Conversely by air . . . How much vibration did the wine endure? How long did the cargo handler leave the cases on the Tarmac? Was he on break during a hot day? How well did the truck driver take care of the wine getting it to the wine store or importer? Usually fine, but too many variables for me when I can maintain control and have complete confidence in how my wine was handled and transported.

                                                                                                1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                  1. I believe they ship during the winter. That's fine for the East Coast. I do wonder what they do for wine coming through the Panama Canal. Maybe someone can tell us.

                                                                                                  Here I wait for November to order wines from the north.

                                                                                                  2. If I calculate correctly 2 tons/acre translates to 45 hectoliters/hectare. The yield in Gevrey Chambertin is limited to 40 and here in Cotes-du-Roussillon Villages it's 30. However, in Sancerre it's 60. In the aforementioned La Tache the actual yield is about 20.

                                                                                                  1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                    Sorry for introducing a little math here, but . . .

                                                                                                    Actually, 1 ton of grapes results in a little more than two barrels of wine. The barrel volume generally contains about 60 gallons, 25 cases or 300 bottles. So a ton of grapes yields about 60 cases of wine or 720 bottles. If you put all that together, a very low-yielding vineyard that produces 2 tons per acre makes about 1,440 bottles (10.8 Hectoliters), or 120 cases per acre (so an acre that yields 10 tons produces about 7,200 bottles, or 600 cases per acre).

                                                                                                    Since there are roughly 2.5 acres per hectare that means that a production of 2 tons per acre equates out to about 5 tons of grapes giving a measly 27 hectoliters/hectare. Far less than what you site above.

                                                                                                    1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                      Oh, pardon me. I dropped a decimal point.

                                                                                                      1440 btls is 10.8 hectoliters divided by 2.5 hectares is about 4.4.

                                                                                                      That's a ridiculously low yield IMO.

                                                                                                      1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                        Exactly, but that's what I buy, drink, and enjoy most. Most of my CA wines come from vineyards producing 1-2 tons/acre. I know many other small producers in other countries are doing similar things, but are likely never exported. That's why I buy predominantly from CA and some from OR. BTW this kind of yield (or lower) is very typical for old vines (60 years or older). La Tache is right in line with this.

                                                                                                        1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                          You buy wines from vineyards that yield only 5 hl/h? Well, I come here to exchange and to learn

                                                                                                          La Tache was 95/5 = 19 in 2008. 30, 2003-2007


                                                                                                          1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                            Actually the calcs come out to 27 hl/h. But yes, I mostly buy wine from very low yielding vineyards. The vast majority of the wine in my cellar is less than 500 case production and a whole bunch of it is less than 200 case production, some even less than 100 cases. That's why I buy from California! Because I just can't get this anywhere else. If I lived in Italy, Spain, Germany, or France, I would likely be doing the exact same thing, buying low yielding low production local wines from producers that I have developed relationships with.

                                                                                                    2. re: collioure1

                                                                                                      there are all kinds of climate-controlled shipping containers (not necessarily refrigerated) -- and shippers can specify that they want their shipment stowed below the waterline (not much help in Panama, I know ). They've been shipping wine by ship for a few centuries now -- they've got it down to a pretty tight science.

                                                                                                      They WANT that wine to arrive in drinkable condition -- the freight and foreign-labeling requirements are extremely expensive, and the last thing they want to do is have the shipping company screw it up and wreck an entire consignment. Thus they have no qualms about paying to ensure that it's transported well and safely.

                                                                                                      Do bottles occasionally get ruined? Of course. But as a percentage, it's pretty small.

                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                        As I said, "Usually fine, but too many variables for me when I can maintain control and have complete confidence in how my wine was handled and transported." Just one benefit in buying locally. I do buy and drink foreign wine, but as a percentage it's relatively low. Again I can relate to the OP.

                                                                                                        BTW, all the German and Austrian wine in my cellar, I personally bought from small producers in Germany and Austria. Next trip to Italy and France, I will probably buy from small local producers. Wines that I just can't get here because small production means it just isn't exported.

                                                                                                        1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                          Maybe you know who to visit, but if I bought wine direct from small producers in Alsace, for example, I don't think I'd meet up with the best vintners - and I do want to buy from the best.

                                                                                                          1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                            Okay -- I'm waiting for the explanation of how it's possible that small producers can't be "the best" -- by whatever standards one chooses to apply.

                                                                                                            And what constitutes "the best"? If I'm handing over the carte bleue, I get to decide what's best...because if *I* like it, that's all that really matters.

                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                              Well, if you know where you are going in advance because of a reference, you're probably heading in the right direction. Otherwise, the little guy with his sign out is pot luck.

                                                                                                              There are very good vintners with larger presences on the street but apparently you don't want them. Finally many of the very best producers (smaller productions) are by appointment only.

                                                                                                              That's a summation of my experience in three quite different regions.

                                                                                                              1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                                "good vintners with larger presences on the street" = tourist trap with crap wine and inflated prices. Just my experience.

                                                                                                                I have had no problem filling my cellar with wonderful production from small vintners, whether by word of mouth, research or happy accident.

                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                  There you go! You're a smart fella.

                                                                                                                  BTW those of you who love Sauternes are not wine snobs. I do understand why just about everyone swoons over these wines. I just prefer something else.

                                                                                                                  I'm not a Bordelais in any way.

                                                                                                                  1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                                    I haven't been a girl in a very long time, but I'll take it as a compliment.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                      A guy named Sunshine?

                                                                                                                      Sorry. I woulda given odds. <g>

                                                                                                          2. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                            I was responding to collioure's question about transporting wines by ocean.

                                                                                                          3. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            Thanks. I didn't know how it was done these days. I just remember Kemit Lynch's book.

                                                                                                  2. There's another reason I buy mostly Californian and not European. Being from California I just feel that generally I get better value from CA wines. When I buy wine from Europe for example (and I do in limited quantities), I realize that I lose on the Euro conversion and then lose again on all the shipping and handling costs. This to me is value lost, it's not money that I'm spending on the wine itself. It's real money that I can spend and get value for on my CA purchases. Lastly, I genuinely want to support my local producers and our local, state, and national economy. Call me nationalistic, but I do try to buy "Made in the USA" whenever I have a similar choice of products.

                                                                                                    That said, sometimes there are no substitutes for European offerings.

                                                                                                    11 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                      Hey, I think your wines are fantastic now. If I lived there, I'd buy West Coast too except in cases of price differential or unavailability of a certain varietal locally.

                                                                                                      Every summer I return from Calif with great admiration for the wine industry there. I drink such wonderful wines in Calif these days !

                                                                                                      1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                        Exactly, and as I said before, if I lived in France, French wine would be the backbone of my cellar. As you are well aware, a big part of the fun in wine (at least for many) is touring the regions, trying some of the smaller producers, finding the hidden gems, and developing lasting relationships with them!

                                                                                                        Unfortunately, these hidden gems almost always eventually get discovered by the masses, prices go through the roof, and the juice gains cult status. Have had this happen more times than I care to count. I'm very lucky that I have developed long term relationships with many of these kinds of producers and can get wine even if I'm not on their mailing lists . . . just can't buy as much as I'd like.

                                                                                                        But I always have new producers that I'm watching and wooing. I pretty much stick as close to home as possible, buying from Southern (recently found a stellar old vine Pinot Noir from a basically unknown Valley Center vintner grown in Rancho Sante Fe < 70 cases) and Central California (Paso and Santa Lucia) as well as Sierra Foothills (El Dorado Cty etc.). This is where, IMO, I find the absolute best value for my dollar.

                                                                                                        1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                          Well, I'll tell a story. We did sample some of the lesser known appellations in restaurants in the 80s. However, I don't know if we had tried a Jurançon by 1984 when we were in SW France. In any case, I wanted to drive the wine road of Jurançon in the foothills of the central Pyrenees. It wasn't long - maybe 10km between Gan and Pau. I drove slowly and we looked. Everywhere!

                                                                                                          Have you ever driven a route de vin that only had two vineyards? Oh, we saw lots of cattle and barns, just hardly any vines. I now see from the modern website that most of the vineyards are west of the official route du vin.

                                                                                                          Dry Jurançons are a staple in my cave today. Tasty varietal for a light-to-medium bodied white. And the sweet ones are magnificent IMO.

                                                                                                          But I know. Wine snobs prefer Sauternes.

                                                                                                          1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                            That's one thing I think California doesn't do particularly well with, sweet wines. A few late harvest Zins here are good, but I think we have nothing that rivals the sweet wines of France, Germany, Portugal or for that matter South Africa (I recently opened and drank a bottle of SA Constantia that was very good). In my experience, California certainly produces nothing of the quality of the Banyuls and other Roussillon wines (Rivesaltes and Maury). Nothing like the Sauternes and their botrytis driven sweet complexity. Not much that I think would rival the sweet Rhones of Rasteau. And certainly nothing like the quality vintage ports from Portugal. Still I don't drink much quantity of sweet wine so I don't suffer too much from the lack of quality domestic sources.

                                                                                                            Never had a sweet Juarancons or even a dry one for that matter. Not sure even where they are. May have to look for that. Any recommendations?

                                                                                                            1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                              Well, Tablas Creek just released the first California wine of this type - a late harvest. (You grow every known grape in the world out there.)

                                                                                                              At Wine Enthusiast I see a few well-rated labels - all online exclusives (I presume that means you buy from them) - both dry and late harvest. $20+

                                                                                                              I buy good dry ones for less than $10.

                                                                                                              1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                                I know the folks at Tablas Creek and their wines are generally solid. Very traditional French wine making style. From the same area, Adelaida, offers a traditional vintage port made from the traditional Portuguese grape varieties. Haven't tried it yet, but it's supposed to be decent. Several days ago a friend and I purchased another traditional vintage port (2007) from the same area (Paso) and even at $40+/bttl it was so gawd awful we returned them (besides being awful, the bottle I opened was corked as well).

                                                                                                                1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                                                  Well, Tablas Creek isn't giving this one away. $30-35

                                                                                                                  That's the price of the better reasonably priced cuvées here (before they jump to 100€).

                                                                                                            2. re: collioure1

                                                                                                              But geeky wine snobs prefer Huet Vouvray Moelleux Premiere Trie!

                                                                                                              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                                                                                                Vouvray Moelleux, eh!

                                                                                                                My! I left Vouvray 25 years ago for Savennières. I enjoy Loire reds, whites and sparklers, but I have never gotten into the late harvest wines there.

                                                                                                                Point to your side.

                                                                                                                1. re: collioure1

                                                                                                                  The 2009 Huët Vouvray Moelleux 1ère Trie Clos du Bourg may turn out to be among the very great botrytized wines, and certainly among Huet's greatest vintages. Likely the last great moelleux for Noel Pinguet, the head vigneron who left Huet last year after a falling out with new ownership. He wanted to vinify what nature provided, whereas new owner Anthony Huang wanted dry wines only/primarily. Sigh. Huet may have seen it's last great period, and Berry Bros now owns most of their former library holdings.

                                                                                                                  Word to the wise: buy 09 Huet Moelleux and 10 Huet secs. Some of the best wines for the money in the world.