jamie goode's wine blog: An affordable southern French red that delivers

Monday, October 29, 2007

An affordable southern French red that delivers

I used to be quite economical with money. Tight, even. But then I married this wonderful girl who once took £100 out of a cash machine, got it blown out of her hand by a gust of wind, and laughed - even though the money was gone. This cavalier approach to dosh has rubbed off on me, curing me of much of my frugality - and now I don't even like to read my bank statements. I don't spend money unnessecarily, and I rarely treat myself (although it is really important to treat yourself once in a while), but I try to be generous. As long as we aren't in debt, then that's OK.

But this scringing past catches up with me occasionally, and one area is in looking at wine prices. Now £6 still seems to me to be a reasonable sort of sum to spend on a bottle of wine. You should be getting something that delivers some flavour, and a little personality at this price. Yet most £6 wines taste like the tricked-up commercial pap that they are. So how nice to find one that isn't just confected muck, but actually tastes pretty good.

Chateau Guiot 2006 Costieres de Nimes, France
From the south of France, and more specifically a 75 hectare property south of Nimes planted mainly to Grenache and Syrah. This is really good. It's a boisterous young red with lovely fresh peppery, slightly meaty dark fruits on the nose. In the mouth the peppery, spicy fruit dominates, and is complemented by firm, grippy tannins and good acidity, making this a vibrant, savoury sort of red that's really versatile at the table. Lovely purity and focus, and the concentration and vibrancy to put many £10 wines to shame. 88/100 (£5.99 Majestic)

-this is currently on offer at £4.79, which makes it a bit of a no-brainer

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At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Peter Hodder-Williams said...

Hi Jamie,

Maybe a bit of an over reaction, but ending with a serious question:

Now £6 still seems to me to be a reasonable sort of sum to spend on a bottle of wine. You should be getting something that delivers some flavour, and a little personality at this price. Yet most £6 wines taste like the tricked-up commercial pap that they are.

Why on earth would anyone expect to get anything other than tricked up commercial pap for 6 quid?

Lets do some ugly ballpark numbers: I'm probably not attributing the right margins in the right places, but the overall sums match wines I know (ie: I know their UK retail and Spanish ex-Cellar prices)

Take £6, remove VAT and Duty, and the wine actually costs £3.85

Let's assume the retailer needs to make around 30% margin, and the total cost of importing the wine (actual costs, transport etc, plus their margin, then marketing anyone?) is around 40%. (Caveat, I'm probably wrong here, but the numbers square for wines I know the prices of).

That gives us an ex-cellar price of around £1.60 or €2.30 in Nīmes in this case.

Take off a bit for the cost of bottle, closure (stelvins being more expensive than cheap corks), labels, capsules and packaging.

What's actually in the bottle is now down to about a pound.

Oak anyone? Actual costs of the winery and vineyard management? Even micro-oxygenation and chips have some cost. Anyone object if the producer actually makes a profit of a few cents per bottle?

My point: If you can get a wine like this at 6 quid, let alone £4.79 Go for it. Buy lots of it. Enjoy it. Can I have some? But maybe it's not realistic to expect anything other than hugely mass produced wines at this price point? If we want "some flavour, and a little personality" maybe it's reasonable to think that it might have cost the producer more than £1 to actually make it?

Now I'm not knocking mass produced wines, and I'm certainly not defending hugely overpriced nearly-great-but-not-there-yet wines that Spain seems to be specialising in recently. Locally, Torres do a fantastic job of making very good commercial stuff. Good on them.

But why does the UK market continue to expect the-holy-grail-in-a-bottle for three and ninepence?

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Of course, it's the holy grail to find wines that deliver delicious flavours and typicity at a reasonable price. The regions which seem to be most capable of producing interesting wines under £6 are Costieres de Nimes and Cotes du Ventoux in the Rhone, the central Languedoc belt of Fitou, Corbieres, Minervois and Faugeres (great old vines Carignan here at a snip); in the south west the appellations of Cahors, Madiran and Marcillac with their marvellously pure savoury reds. In Spain: Carinena, Toro & Jumilla amongst others. In Italy - Sicily, Abruzzo & Marche provide real wines at good value. As long as people are making humble wines for everyday drinking rather than pretentious wines to win competitions we should be able to find things which are value for money.

The problem that Jamie identifies is that cheaper wines are being forced to appear as if they justify their £6 price tag. The use of oak chips is a device used to make a wine seem richer than it is. Wines are deliberately confected to conform to a taste/price profile - perceived bang for buck, but, in reality, these wines are hollow because there is more "style" than substance to them.

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous mambo said...

Jamie, I'm currently enjoying a similar red, Paul Jaboulet Parallele' 45. £7.99 a bottle from www.surf4wine.co.uk - see www.thecrusa.blogspot.com.

All the best


At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

Incidentally last week at the Calais Majestic Ch Guiot was going for under three quid a bottle for those who bought half a dozen.
But more interesting is the question of huge mark-ups in Britain. E Leclerc sells Ch Belgrave 2004 for ten pounds (The Wine Society charges £17.50) or Ch Cambon La Pelouse 2004 for under seven (you can double that and more over here). Even Clos De Los Siete is eight or nine euros.
Of course that's a giant supermarket chain, though these prices are standard, not loss leaders. But French independent merchants offer excellent value for money too. Classed growth clarets and top burgundy might be beyond everyday quaffing, but interesting wines with personality from Beaujolais, the Loire, Southern Rhone, South West France and Languedoc are easily found under ten euros. Even tax differences can't explain this gaping disparity. Either no one here is making a profit, or, more likely, the supply lines to the British drinker are unnecessarily elaborate. I'm not sure that the trade doesn't simply think that if the English are daft enough to pay six quid for 'tricked up commercial pap' then that is exactly what they'll be offered.
Is there any other reason why?

At 7:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently bought a Cotes-du-Rhone in Sainsbury's on special offer, futher reduced when you bought 6 bottles until it came down to a shade over £3 a bottle. It is better wine than can be expected that price, and good for everyday drinking. Since at Majestic you have to buy 12 anyway, are they beter value than the supermarket? Probably not. Sure, the free tasting, free delivery, and young enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff are unique, but if you already know about wine the supermarket can be surprisingly good value.


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