Eat with oystersSure, they’re never going to be as cheap as they are in their native land, but there are still plenty of bargain French bottles to be had if you know where to look.If you've been put off going to France this summer by the strikes, Operation Stack or just the thought of the sweltering heat (which is my excuse), you've possibly also missed out on the annual opportunity to stock up on wine that doesn't break the bank.
Sadly, there's no way you're going to pick up a "2 snip back home, though you can console yourself with the knowledge that it almost certainly wouldn't have tasted as good here as by the pool. But, so long as you're prepared to pay that little bit more, there are some decent bargains to be had. Waitrose, for example, currently has a 25% off six bottles deal, which brings the perfectly decent, bright, lemony Cuv"ée Pecheur 2014(11.5% abv) down to "£3.74 from "£4.99, and the smooth, ripe La Chandelle Merlot 2014 (12.5% abv), from Bergerac, down to "£4.49 from "£5.99 (incidentally, that's a much better bet than its red counterpart, the rather weedy Cuv"ée Chasseur).
Quite a few of Tesco's Finest range are also on promotion right now, and I'd pick out the Picpoul de Pinet (12.5% abv), now on the 2014 vintage, as a reliable buy (as I've done in the past). I know I've whinged about picpoul getting pricey, but you can't grumble at "£5.99 for a wine that's a wonderful partner for shellfish. (The Co-op also has a decent picpoul in its Truly Irresistible range, though at "£6.99, I'd find it more irresistible if it were a pound cheaper.) If you're near an Asda, meanwhile, try its C"tes de Thau 2014 ("£4.97; 12% abv), a characterful blend of sauvignon, grenache blanc and vermentino from the store's impressive Wine Atlas range.
I'm also aware that I bang on about the Wine Society a fair bit, but it really is hard to beat for value for money, or qualit"é/prix, as the French more expressively put it. The light, fruity Domaine Laborie Pays d'Oc 2014 (12.5% abv) at "£5.50 is another Languedoc winner (the region does have most of the bargains) which has the added advantage of looking at least a couple of quid more expensive than it is. And if you're after a white to make up a case, Les Pierres Bordes Marsanne Viognier Pays d'Oc 2014 ("£5.75; 12% abv) is a smooth, Rh"ne-ish and versatile all-rounder.
But of all the wines I tasted for this week's column, it was, alas, the most expensive that I'd want to spend the rest of my summer drinking: Jacques Abel's Domaine de Cassagnau 2014 Pays d'Oc ("£7.95 Hercules Wine Warehouse; 13% abv) is an irresistibly juicy, peppery blend of syrah, grenache and merlot. On the bright side, you don't have to cross the Channel to get hold of it. matchingfoodandwine.com