I’ve been trying to research the most expensive bottles of wine in the world, all in the name of an informative blog (not by drinking them, obviously). But alas, I have been well and truly foiled, as the worlds wine press can’t seem to make up its mind, quoting vintages here and crazy price tags there, and never settling on a definitive answer.
What my digging has shown though, is that whatever lucky bottles might be, they are most certainly French. There are a few Penfolds Grange (Australia) and Napa Valley (USA) efforts sneaking up the rear like bolshy teenagers, but their kudos is by far surpressed by a sea of French-produced beauties. The wine heritage here is almost impossible to beat.
But every Frenchman loves his paradox, and at the complete opposite side of the scale, amongst the stones and dirt at the bottom of the majestic vine let’s say, the French also produce a dizzying array of super, super cheap offerings, meaning that with even 2 euros in your pocket you can walk away with a bottle of honestly-produced wine.
And the great thing is, even at the bottom of the pile, the stuff you can snap up (if you choose wisely – but more of that later), is actually not that bad. You’ll fall upon bottles of distant relatives of turpentine, bien sur. But equally, for less than a fiver, you can happily find of a whole range of plonk that’s not too shabby at all.
One of these days I’m going to offer a comprehensive guide of wines to choose for those without mustard money to fling around (i.e. 50 euro notes), but for now I’ll leave you with a tip that means you can start your wine quest of discovery all on your own, for less than the price of a pint.
This weekend plays host to the biannual Salons des vins Vignerons Independent (Independent Winemaker Fair), taking place at Espace Champerret in the 17th (metro line 3, Porte de Champerret). For a mere 6 euros, you gain entry into the salon, a free tasting glass thrust at you as you walk in. The idea is you meander at will through the thousands of wine stalls happily set up for your sipping pleasure, maybe having a chat with the ruddy-faced winemakers as you go, sampling, swilling and spitting (not compulsory…) at leisure.
Of course the objective of the whole exercise is that you leave the salon laden down with the good stuff, these guys have to make a living after all (but you’re by no means obliged to buy). You’ll see swathes of punters with trolleys carting boxes and boxes homes to their caves (watch out for your heels), and some of the more up-market stalls (Champagne, Cognac, some of the more expensive Bordeaux wines) won’t give the warmest welcome if you don’t look like a serious buyer. These guys have to make a living after all. Happily though, because you are buying direct from the winemakers, the prices are a fraction of what they would be if you bought the same wine retail.
Given the sheer size of the event, a little strategy is wise if you don’t want to become completely overwhelmed. Head straight to the huge colour-coded stall chart as soon as you get in and identify the wines that you’re keen to try. Start with the bubbles, then switch to the light whites, then heavy whites and rosés, if you’re that way inclined. Then maybe stop for a foie gras and magret de canard sandwich (I’m not joking) if you’re feeling posh, in any case, a mid-fair breather is probably a good idea. Then attack the light reds and the heavy reds, in that order, and if you still have some puff left, finish with the dessert wines and digestifs.
If you do make a purchase (most of the producers are quite happy to sell you just a bottle if that’s all you want), the winemakers take your email address and when the next wine fair swings around (there’s another one at the end of November at Porte de Versailles), they’ll very kindly email you an invitation for you and your wine-drinking wingman to get into the fair for free. If that’s not worth a gigantic cheers, then I don’t know what is.
The salon starts runs from 28th-31st March. For more information, check out http://www.vigneron-independent.com.