When buying French wines, we are looking for value, wines that offer exceptional quality for the price. The Classified Growths of Bordeaux and the Premier and Grand Crus of Burgundy are expensive and are reserved for special occasions. But there are plenty of affordable French wines that offer high quality for their prices. Here are some such wines that we have tasted recently.
While the Classified Grand Vins of the Medoc are costly. there are fine values from the Right Bank of the Gironde, from communes such as Fronsac, Saint Emilion and its satellites such as Montagne-Saint Emilion and Cotes de Francs. From south of Bordeaux, there is Graves and in the Haut Medoc, affordable Crus Bourgeois can be found. Recently, I purchased a bunch of Bordeaux wines from wine.com. Here are our finds.
2016 Clos du Roy, Fronsac ($15.99) - Fronsac is situated northeast of Pomerol. This version is comprised of 90% Merlot and 5% each of Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon. It shows a purplish ruby color and rich aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, tobacco and incense. The medium full bodied flavors are akin to those of Pomerol, with thick, generous red and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals. The back picks up pressed fruits, roasted hazelnuts and kirsch, followed by a chewy moderate tannin finish. 18+/20 points.
2016 Château Marsau, Francs-Côtes de Bordeaux ($!9.99) - The Côtes de Francs is situated north of Saint Emilion. All Merlot, this wine offers an opaque purplish-ruby color and rich, almost sweet aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed black roses, mulberry, tobacco and smoke. The flavors are thick and generous, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and black earth. The saturation continues on the back with roasted berries and nuts, mocha, lanolin ("legs") and graphite, followed by a slightly grainy ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Château La Bastienne, Montagne-Saint Emilion ($19.99) - As the appellation suggests, this comes from the mountain above Saint Emilion. This 100% Merlot displays a deep purplish ruby color and an intense nose of raspberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, mulberry, sweet tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with generous, yet focused red and blue fruits that are infused with red licorice, cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans and hillside earth and minerals. On the back, the wine turns deliciously velvety, with sensations of pressed fruits, roasted nuts, mocha and pencil shavings, followed by an herb dusted moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Château de Pressac, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé ($34.99) - This is a blend of 71% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% each of Carmenère and Malbec. Deep purple-crimson colored, this wine emits sensuous aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, cassis, rosebuds, pipe tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors are simultaneously lavish and muscular, with notes of licorice, chocolate, French roar and gravelly minerals. The penetration continues on the back with roasted berries, grilled nuts, mocha and graphite, followed by a grainy yet opulent ripe tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2016 Château Fonroque, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé ($39.99) - Composed of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, this wine exhibits a ruby-crimson color and a seductive nose of wild fruits - raspberries, old tree cherries and plums - with scents of rose petals, mulberry, sweet tobacco, sweet pea flowers and sweet incense. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with copious red fruits that are infused with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and calcareous minerals. On the back, the wine invigorates with sensations of macerated berries, roasted pecans, framboise and cerise liqueurs and graphite, followed by a lingering, decadent yet firm sweet-dry tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Château Senéjac, Haut Medoc ($18.99) - A mix of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, this shows a deep ruby color and a smoky nose of blackberry, cherry, plum, rosebuds, tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors are robust and direct, with notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, roasted coffee beans and earth. The intensity continues on the back with macerated berries, roasted nuts and graphite, followed by a slightly grainy sweet-dry tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18+/20 points.
2015 Château Ferran, Pessac-Léognan ($24.99) - Situated south of Bordeaux, the commune of Pessac-Léognan in Graves is famed for its Château Haut-Brion. This blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot offers a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of wild raspberries, old tree cherries, black currants, crushed black roses, mulberry, tobacco, sandalwood and incense. The flavors are thick and savory, with notes of black licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and calcareous earth and gravel. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of macerated fruits, grilled nut meats and pencil lead, followed by a rich sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
The Côtes du Rhône offer many fine values, especially in the southern part of the Valley. Here are some recently tasted ones that are especially recommended.
2018 Château d'Aqueria Tavel Rosé ($19.99 - wine.com) - New Review. Composed of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Clairette, this is an extraordinary value. It shows a brilliant copper-pink color and enticing aromas of strawberries, pomegranates, currants, tangerine, rose petals, orange blossoms, lavender and spiced white incense. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with beautifully extracted red fruits that are accented by tangerine peel and mas minerals. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs and pomegranate seeds, followed by a pleasingly juicy, lightly spiced dry finish. Lynn: three stars (highest rating). 19/20 points.
2018 Château de Ségeriés Tavel Rosé ($22.99 - wine.com) - The 2017 Ségeries was one of our favorites last year. This vintage does not disappoint. Brilliant pink-rose colored, it possesses effusive aromas of strawberry, pomegranate, currant, crushed red roses, tangerine peel, lavender and spiced pink incense. The flavors are crisp and vivid, with notes of grape skins, pomegranate seeds and mas soil stony minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of fraise and cassis liqueurs, recurring tangerine peel and light spices on the dry finish that is lifted by balanced fruit acids. Lynn: three stars. 19/20 points.
2017 Delas "Les Launes" Crozes-Hermitage ($21.99 - wine.com) - This 100% Syrah offers a lot of varietal purity for the price. Reviewed in the 11 September Blog. In retasting, it advanced from 18/20 to 18+/20 points.
2016 Les Pallières "Terasse du Diable" Gigondas ($36.99 - wine.com) - This Brunier-Kermit Lynch collaboration scored 19/20 points in the 14 August Blog.
2015 Domaine de la Charbonnière Vacqueyras ($29.99 - Esquin) - From near Gigondas this predominately Grenache red offers a lot for the price. Reviewed in the 14 Blog - 18.5/20 points.
The Crus of Beaujolais come from the best communes in the region. Produced from the Gamay grape, they are pleasingly fruited and very enjoyable to drink. Here are four of our favorites, all from the exceptional 2017 vintage.
2017 Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon, "Les Charmes" ($23.99 - wine.com) - First reviewed in the 14 May Blog, we retasted this wine recently and found it absolutely charming, with lovely aromas and fresh, vibrant fruit flavors that resonate from beginning to end. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 La Soeur Cadette Chénas ($26.99 - wine.com) - This wine is charming yet vigorous, with deep, generous flavors. We reordered more of this. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Domaine Piron & Lameloise Moulin-a-Vent ($23.99 - wine.com) - The commune of Moulin-à-Vent produces some of the fullest bodied Beaujolais. This is a fine example. Reviewed 25 August - 18.5/20 points.
2017 La Tour du Fief Saint-Amour ($24.99 - wine.com) - Saint-Amour ("Holy Love") is a beautiful name and the wine is too. Reviewed 25 August - 18.5/20 points.
Other French Wines
Other regions of France produce excellent values, especially Alsace, the Lore Valley and the Southwest. Here are a few that we've tried recently.
2017 Trimbach Riesling, Vin d'Alsace ($25 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - Trimbach is a respected producer in Ribeauvillé. Made in a dry style, this shows a brilliant gold color and floral aromas of pear, white peach, citrus, pear tree blossoms, white lilac and wet stone. The flavors are bright and precise, with notes of peach stone, grape skin and flinty minerals. The back picks up poor William and pêche liqueurs on the way to a persistently minerally finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Albert Mann Gewurztraminer, Vin d'Alsace ($24 - The Thief) - Owned by the Barthlemé, this Domaine is located in Wettolsheim in the heart of the Vosges. This wine displays a brilliant gold color and rich aromas of pear, peach, apricot, a hint of papaya, pear blossoms, butternut, clover, anise and spiced white incense. The flavors are rich and spicy ("gewurz") yet restrained, with notes of licorice, semi dried fruits and stony minerals. The back picks up poire William and pêche liqueurs, lanolin ("legs") and roasted nuts followed by an initially sweet, then dry spiced finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Domaine Paul Thomas Sancerre, "Les Comtesses" ($29.99 - wine.com) - Reviewed 31 May, this was recently retasted. It shows an exceptional expression of upper Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc with a brilliant lemon-gold color and a perfumed nose of pear, peach, lime, gooseberry, white flowers and white smoke. The flavors are exceedingly precise, with notes of grape and pear skins and saline minerals. The resonance continues on the back with poire and pêche liqueurs and quince preserves, followed by a long, steely but finely fruited dry finish. 19/20 points.
2017 Domaine Paul Thomas Sancerre Rouge, Chavignol ($25.99 - wine.com) - Red Sancerre is made from the Pinot Noir grape and Chavignol is the best commune. Brick red colored, this possesses lovely, perfumed aromas of strawberry, cherry, currant, red rose petals, sweet pea flowers, orange peel, and whiffs of incense. The flavors are medium bodied and charming but substantial, with notes of red licorice, cocoa powder and alluvial minerals. The back picks up gently pressed fruits, fraise and cerise liqueurs and toasted nuts, followed by a pleasing soft tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Domaine de la Lande Saint Nicolas de Bourgeuil ($27 - The Thief) - Produced from Cabernet Franc, this Loire red shows a deep ruby color and engaging aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, purple lilac, tobacco leaf and sage. The medium full-bodied flavors mirror the aromatics with notes of red licorice, cocoa, black tea and alluvial minerals. On the back, the wine turns bright and juicy, with sensations of pressed fruits, framboise and cerise liqueurs and soft pencil lead, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish. A vin de plaisir. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Clos Siguier Cahors, "Les Camille," Vieilles Vignes ($23 - The Thief) - This Malbec from the Lot Valley in southwest France offers a deep ruby color and rich aromas of raspberry, blueberry, cherry and plum with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco and incense. The flavors are generous yet substantial, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and calcareous minerals. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts, framboise and kirsch liqueurs and plum, preserves, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish. 18+/20 points.