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What Motivates Our Choice Of Wines?

Mardi 23 Juin 2020

Putting a range of wines together is perhaps not as easy as you think...

What Motivates Our Choice Of Wines?
Putting a range of wines together is perhaps not as easy as you might think. Right from the off you need to have a very definite philosophy of what exactly you are looking to achieve with your selection. Although it's not everything, it's probably fair to say that price is crucial. Are you looking for the cheapest wines? If so you will need to work with « négociants » who buy and blend other peoples wine in bulk, and are responsible for many of the supermarket brands. Or you can buy direct from the local coops, who also supply the négociants. Going down this route means not dealing directly with the person who tends the vines and then manages the wines in the winery. We prefer to know who makes our wines which means that we will never be the cheapest. You then need to decide which price range suits you and your consumers. The vast majority of our wines sit in the €6-€11 bracket. We feel that this range here in the Languedoc represents possibly the best value for money selection of wines in the world. Given its past image as a dinosaur of wine production, prices in the Languedoc are still playing catch up with other regions, whether in France or across the world. Quality on the other hand, has shot through the roof over the last fifteen years in particular. The Languedoc vigneron has the advantage of climate, but still needs to be that bit better than the others to convince the sceptical northern French consumer that the southern cousins aren't still just making plonk. Take a few examples from our list: the white wines from the Domaine de Castelnau at under €5 a bottle are not just cheap. They are as good a white wine as you will find at that price. Don't expect the Chardonnay to be a Chablis Grand Cru or the Viognier to be a Condrieu, but they are remarkable value for money. The St Hilaire Syrah at €7.50 beat a €26 bottle of Crozes Hermitage in a BLIND tasting we did at Le Wine Shop. Four groups of at least 10 people voted the same way. Same grape, same year, just great value Languedoc versus high-priced Northern Rhone. The Les Graimenous Crémant de Limoux at €10.50 is a better-balanced, more pleasant drink than most Champagnes at under €30. I could go on, but I'm sure you all have your own personal favourites down here, whether we sell them or not. We do sell some higher-priced wines but not many. There are other places where you will find those bottles, and their job is all about explaining why the wines are more expensive. The low yields, the best French oak barrels, the particular terroir and the time spent ageing. Yet our producers have already gone down that road. Maybe not to the extent of some of the most revered producers, but the costs really aren't massively different. After over 20 years in the wine business I know what things cost. Low yield is the one thing that makes a huge difference. Others such as going organic or natural also ramp up costs, but some of our suppliers are organic too. Some may argue that certain wines are more expensive because they're simply better. Not true across the board as the hundreds of tastings at Le Wine Shop over 6 years proved. There are great wines that transcend others. The greatest wine I've ever drunk was a Burgundy which now costs €150 a bottle. But try and find a white Burgundy under €20 which is as good as St Georges d'Ibry's « Closerie », and you'll have your work cut out. Or find a red Burgundy under €20 which has any of the drinkability of the Saxophone wine from Domaine les Abournières at less than half the price. Same problem. We regularly repeat here just how privileged we are to be able to taste such amazing products, which are being produced more and more responsibly at such remarkable prices. At we are not trying to break the mould. After 6 years selling many thousands of bottles and holding hundreds of tastings (which will be back!) we know what you like!

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