Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

How to Order French Wine Without Getting Ripped Off

By Jessica Yadegaran
Thursday, March 1st, 2007 at 1:31 pm in Uncategorized.

I am in Napa withdrawls, but alas, I need to move forward, or back, it seems, to my normal life, where I eat tuna salad for lunch and drink wines made in this century.

Any way, one thing people ask me a lot is how to kick their habit (read: safety blanket) of ordering California wines off a restaurant’s wine list. If you want to experiment with the French world, dining out is a fantastic way to do it. After all, it’s not a whole bottle, it’s just a glass. It can make the chateaux labyrinth seem a little less intimidating, and best of all, there are value wines. You just have to know what to look for.

Start by ordering a white Burgundy instead of a Chardonnay. In “Secrets From The Wine Diva,” Christine Ansbacher tells you to remember the Saints if you get stumped or overwhelmed by the wine list. St-Aubin, St-Veran and St-Romain are all quality, affordable wines. The Villages cost even less than the Saints, and start with the word Macon. Look for Macon-Lugny, Macon-Vire.

Ready for a red? It’s Bordeaux instead of Cabernet. Choose second labels of famous chateaux, and if you don’t know what those are, just ask. Again, I like how Ansbacher lays it out: Carruades de Lafite from Lafite-Rothschild; and Bahans de Haut Brion from, you guessed it, Haut Brion. Scan the menu for the famous chateau’s name; it’s almost always included in the second label’s name. We have second labels too (the Meritage Opus One has Overture, for instance).

Another thing you can do is ask for a wine near or next to those famous areas. You can’t imagine how many producers bank on the fact that they are just over the hill from Pomerol. And they should. The quality is there, just without the name. Try LaLande de Pomerol or, for St-Emilion heads, St-Georges-St-Emillion or Lussac-St-Emillion. They do a good job of letting you know who their neighbors are on the label.

For Rhone varietals, eschew the god-like Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend for similar great wines from the nearby Lirac, Gigondas and Cotes du Rhones-Villages (there that Village thing again).
Hope this helps.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]