BackCoverPicSome of the conventional wisdom about wine is true; most has an element of truth; some is really stretching it. Many of these bon mots reflect supercilious attitudes—snobbery you expect from uninformed waiters. This is the third part of four on wine myths.
5. The best wines are French. While the Bordeaux region has been producing world class wines for millennia, the best wines from other regions compete well in blind tastings. In my out-of-date experience, the average California or Oregon wines are better than the average French wines because the French wines vary more from year to year and from one region to another. I can’t afford the “best” of either and the subtleties that allow a specific wine to excel would probably be lost on me anyway. The sidebar gives an expert-derived opinion on the distribution of great wineries. [Somewhere or other I read that Julius Caesar considered Bordeaux to produce some of the best wines available.]
On the other hand, wine engenders more supercilious nonsense than most anything else. So, if you’re taking a bottle of wine as a gift to a party, no one can deny that French wines will give the allusion of really knowing wines. It’s nonsense, but, unless your hostess is a knowledgeable oenophile, she probably won’t know that. So a gift of cheap French wine is sometimes more warmly received than a great wine from the Napa or Barossa valleys.
You can get excellent, not too expensive, French wines by selecting wine from regions that have not yet been discovered, such as the Rhone and Cahors regions. They have some excellent red wines that are much less expensive than Bordeaux.
Homework: If you can afford it, organize a wine tasting with some near-100 rated non-French wines and some Bordeaux wines that are labeled by grape varietal (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, …) instead of by region or vineyard.