This week’s question comes from Paul K. Ward of Takoma Park, who wants to know:

“How on earth can you possibly get decent French wine in D.C. given the exchange rate?”

It seems that if global warning doesn’t kill the French wine industry, the exchange rate will. Or perhaps the changing tastes of the international wine community. Or France’s refusal to change production methods to meet these changing tastes. Or even America’s perception of France as a bunch of surrender monkeys whose wine isn’t fit for a Yorkshire pig to roll in.

Yes, it’s a tough time for the French winemakers, and the dollar’s poor exchange rate with the euro is just one of the factors that makes French vino so pricy. As Ace Beverage wine manager Joe Riley points out, you also have a number of people and bureaucracies standing between you and your precious French wine, and they all want a piece of the action. Despite this, though, Cotes du Ventoux in the Rhone region still produces some affordable, drinkable bottles, he says, which Paul K. Ward himself can attest to. Paul told me that he recently bought a decent Ventoux at Rodman’s for $6.99.

Ventoux is “just a big area where a lot of perfectly decent, if not distinguished, wine comes from,” Riley says. The region’s undistinguished reputation and its flood of grape juice on the market combine to drive the wine’s price down. “People are only willing to pay but so much for wine from certain areas. I mean, if it’s more expensive from a big area like that, it better be really limited and seriously good. But there’s so much wine coming out of there that no one really feels the need [to pay] much for it.”

“Ventoux is an area, unless I’m mistaken, that wasn’t really well known by wine drinkers in this country at all until probably the 1980s, but there have been people who have sourced wine from there for quite a long time,” Riley adds.

So what producers from the region would you recommend? “If anyone’s going to know one in this country, it’s probably going to be one called La Vieille Ferme. They’ve had several bottlings under that label,” Riley says. “But the one that I saw was just called Bishop’s Selection.”

Like Riley, Terry Brown, wine manager at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, believes there are decent, affordable wines to be had from France. It’s just a matter of separating the good from the plonk. This is where your friendly neighborhood wine store comes in, Brown says. It should do the work for you.

“The only way that I really can answer a question like this—and it really is not me trying to plug myself—but have a wine store that you can trust,” Brown says. “The inexpensive wines, like the $10, $15 price range or under, there are good ones out there, but you just have to taste through them all. And a good wine store that you trust should be able to help you with that.”

Except for the extremely expensive wines with limited production, Brown says he samples every vino in his store. So what French producers does he recommend for Paul? “Stay away from Bordeaux if you’re looking for inexpensive [wines]. Generally speaking that’s not a good place to go,” he says. “But I would say the two areas to look for in France, where you can still find pretty good deals, are Cotes du Rhones and Loire whites.”

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Specific recommendations for affordable French wines after the jump.

Joe Riley’s recommendations from Ace Beverage:


• Domaine La Bastide (Durand) Merlot, 2004, $7.49
• Domaine La Bastide (Durand) Syrah, 2004, $8.49
• Domaine de Couron, V.D.P. Coteaux de L’Ardeche Merlot, 2004, $9.99
• Bishop’s Selection Cotes De Ventoux, 2003, $7.99
• Domaine de Couron Côtes du Rhône, 2005, $11.99
• Domaine Grès St. Vincent, Côtes du Rhône Villages, 2005, $13.99
• Domaine de Fenouillet, Côtes de Ventoux, 2005, $13.99
• Nicholas Crozes Côtes du Rhône “Les Petits Coins,” 2005, $14.99
• Château Les Arrowmans, Bordeaux, 2004, $9.99
• Château Fleur de Rigaud, “Cuvée Prestige” Bordeaux Supérieur, 2002, $10.99
• Château Les Arrowmans, “Cuvée Prestige” Bordeaux, 2004, $11.99
• Château Haut La Péreyre, Bordeaux, 2003, $12.99
• Château Jarr, Bordeaux, 2005, $13.99
• Château Greysac, Medoc, 1999, $14.99
• Tellus Vinea, Bordeaux, 2004, (second label of Belregard-Figeac, St. Emilion) $15.99
• Moulin D’Issan, Bordeaux Supérieur, 2004, $15.99


• Domaine Des Cassagnoles, Côtes de Gascogne, 2006, $7.99
• Marc Olivier (Domaine de la Pépière) Muscadet, 2005, $9.99
• Domaine des Chezelles, Touraine Sauvignon, 2006, $9.99
• Domaine des Cassagnoles, Sauvignon, 2006, $10.99
• Henri Bourgeois “Petite Bourgeois” Sauvignon, 2005, $10.99
• Marc Olivier (Domaine de la Pépière) Muscadet “Cuvée Eden,” 2005, $11.49
• Clos Roche Blanche, Touraine Sauvignon, 2006, $11.99
• Domaine de Mirail, Cotes de Gascogne Colombard, 2006, $11.99
• Domaine de Couron, Côtes du Rhône, (Viognier), 2005, $11.99
• Domaine de Creyssels, Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux de Languedoc, 2006, $11.99
• Château Jarr, Bordeaux Blanc, 2005, $11.99
• Haut La Péreyre, Bordeaux Blanc, 2005, $12.99
• Domaine Guindon Muscadet Coteaux du Loire “Prestige,” 2006, $11.99
• Domaine Gardiès Muscat Sec “Mas Las Cabes,” 2005, $12.99
• Labbé Abymes Vin de Savoie, 2006, $12.99
• Château Magneau, Bordeaux Blanc, 2004, $12.99
• Joel Delaunay Touraine Sauvignon “Estate,” 2006, $13.99
• Francois Collard (Mourgues du Gres) Costières de Nimes “Les Galets Dores” Blanc, 2006, $13.99
• Château de la Greffière, Mâcon La-Roche-Vineuse “Sous Le Bois,” 2005, $13.99
• Domaine Vincent Ricard “Le Petiot,” Touraine Sauvignon, 2005, $13.99
• Henry Marionnet Dom. de la Charmoise Sauvignon Touraine, 2005, $13.99
• Albert Seltz Riesling, 2005, $14.99
• Albert Seltz Pinot Blanc, 2004, $14.99
• Château de la Greffière, Mâcon La-Roche-Vineuse “Vieilles Vignes,” 2006, $14.99
• Scherer Tokay Pinot Gris, 2004, $14.99
• Château La Rame, Bordeaux Blanc, 2005, $14.99
• Joseph Landron Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sûr Lie “Gold Label,” 2006, $14.99
• Albert Mann Pinot Blanc, 2004/2005, $15.99
• Bernard Fouquet (Dom des Aubuisières) Vouvray “Cuvée de Silex,” 2005, $15.99
• Olivier Morin Chitry Blanc, 2005, $15.99

Terry Brown’s recommendations from Schneider’s of Capitol Hill

Loire whites

• Henri Bourgeois Petite Bourgeois, 2006, $9.99
• Fournier Mmm Sauvignon Blanc, 2005, $14.99
• Bellevue Rose Touraine, 2006, $8.99
• Bellevue Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, $9.99

Alsace white

• Wunsch & Mann Pinot Blanc, 2004, $11.99

Rhone/Southern France wines

• Montagnette Cote Du Rhone, 2004, $9.99
• Ninet de Pena Viognier, 2006, $9.99
• Donjon Rose, 2006, $10.99
• Lou de Louberon Blanc, 2005, $6.99
• Lou de Louberon Blanc, 2005, $6.99
• Les Gaillards Old Vine Grenache, 2004, $12.99