The French 'rentrée' is also the start of an interesting period for wine enthusiasts - the season of wine fairs in supermarkets. In all, these span nearly 6 weeks, and these days the wines are not only good value but also carefully selected. As with medal competitions, you always have to bear in mind that makers who already have a good market for their wines need not participate, but with the aid of review articles you can usually buy good wines at good prices. Since the best bargains are usually snapped up early, the secret is to arrive at the supermarket at opening time on day 1.
I did this several times in September, partly for our wine tasting circle here in Lunel and partly to find wines as presents. The wines I bought are listed below, but first a few notes on the different places I visited and on some of my choices. I was aided by the comprehensive article in the Revue in August, which highlighted a dozen or so top picks from each chain.
The earliest wine fairs are in the cut-price supermarkets - Lidl, Aldi, Netto and Leader Price. One could add BioCoop but their wine fair sas so chaotic that they could not even agree on a start date, so lost out as I arrived early on the first day of each. That’s what you have to do to snap up the best bargains. Lidl is the most impressive, with three aisles dedicated to a huge range of French and a few foreign wines. As you can see, I found plenty of choice even without the usual array of Bordeaux reds. Rhône reds and a nice Touraine white were my picks here.
For the rest, the budget stores ranged from the chaotic Netto (lucky to find any of the wines listed beforehand) to the interesting but slightly disorganised Leader Price and the very nicely organised Aldi, whose range I’ll explore more next year. Although the major supermarkets’ fairs start later in September, or into October, I managed to find one of my star buys in Intermarché and (as I have done often in previous years) some good buys in Leclerc.
Two personal stories link to my wine fair visits this year. The first is a red from the flat lands between Orange and the Dentelles de Montmirail in the southern Rhône, from the village of Violès. When we first discovered this it followed a purchase from the organic shop Beanos in Matlock Bath, which we used a lot during our time in Derbyshire. At that time Violès was on the bottome rung of the Côtes du Rhône, a sleepy village en route to more celebrated places like Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Beaumes de Venise. Since then the village has acquired Côtes du Rhône Villages status itself, and the Tour des Abbesses we found in Inter was one of the best reds we’ve come across recently for everyday drinking. I seek it out when I visit Intermarché stores in the Cevennes, but I doubt it will be sin stock for much longer.
Second, one of the highlights of my visit to Aldi was the Bonnezeaux from a well-known producer, Château de Fesles. The sweet chenin blanc wines from this area (the Layon valley south of Angers) are exceptional and long-lasting, one of the few white appellations outside exalted Burgundies to keep more than a few years. But is is for this very reason that makers divest themselves of wines 15 years old or more. We first discovered this in the 1990s when we bought 1979 Bonnezeaux from the very same producer from 3D wines, who introduced us to some of our favourite makers elsewhere. Because these wines last so long, makers hold onto stocks but in the end have to sell them to make room in their cellars, and we profit. This Bonnezeaux was not a great wine, but a delicious wine to drink now all the same, and it will keep a few years yet.
By the way, a late purchase not on my list below is a Savennières, another Anjou wine but this time dry but equally longlasting. Sadly the bottle we bought from Leclerc will not be tested for longevity because we finished it between us at lunchtime today, but there is another lurking and I’ll be getting back to Leclerc in the vain hope that there may still be some left - utterly delicious.
Here is my list of purchases, 7 whites first, the rest red.
|Saint Véran||Louis Dailly||2017||Leader Price||8.04 €|
|Macon Villages||Cave d'Azé||2017||Netto||4.99 €|
|Touraine Sauvignon||Caves Gilles Gobin||2017||Lidl||3.99 €|
|Menetou Salon||Patient Cottat||2017||Intermarché||9.95 €|
|Sancerre||Les Fossiles, dom Roblin||2017||Intermarché||13.75 €|
|Alsace Riesling||Rittimann Celliers de Romarin||2016||Aldi||5.99 €|
|Bonnezeaux||Château de Fesles (50 cl)||2001||Aldi||13.99 €|
|CdR Villages||Dom de Tavans||2017||Leader Price||5.87 €|
|Cahors||Malbec du Clos||2015||Leader Price||5.33 €|
|J L Baldès|
|Saint Joseph||Dom de Blacieux||2017||Lidl||9.99 €|
|Vacqueyras||Terroir des Dentelles||2016||Lidl||6.99 €|
|SCA Rhonéa, Beaumes de Venise|
|Vinsobres||Dom Croze-Brunet||2016||Lidl||5.49 €|
|Côtes du Rhône Vill.||Dom la Tour des Abbesses, Plan de Dieu||2017||Intermarché||4.49 €|
|Gaillac||Gd réserve de Labastide de Lévis||2016||Aldi||3.99 €|