A taste of France

Living in Portugal and with so much good wine to choose from, it is all too easy to forget about foreign wines. In fact, having lived here for most of my life, my exposure to foreign wines until recently was mostly restricted to trips abroad. But things have changed and most major supermarkets these days stock at least a few foreign labels. And when it comes to French wines, there are few places in the Algarve where we can delve into the world of that greatest of wine-making nations. I have been pleased to see the recent improvements, for example, at my local Intermarché supermarket between Lagoa and Carvoeiro.

Anyone in business in the Algarve knows that the French market has boomed in the last two years and continues to go from strength to strength, both in terms of tourism and the growing numbers of French expats living here. So it is fitting that the Frenchman who owns our local Intermarché supermarkets has risen to the challenge of ensuring his compatriots have a good selection of French wines at their disposal. 

There are currently around 100 French wines to choose from at Intermarché Lagoa, covering the main regions with a huge selection in the mid-range and good few in the premium segment. This supermarket has long carried a good selection of French wine but, in the last few months, it has come on leaps and bounds.

Browsing the shelves last weekend, I could not resist parting with €20.65 for a bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges 2010 from Jean Bouchard. Pinot Noir and especially red Burgundy is my passion and to be able to buy this wine at my local supermarket (essentially the entry level of the good stuff) is a real boon. 

With my relatively limited knowledge of French wine, I also added to my shopping trolley a bottle of the wonderfully named Chateau Condom from Côtes de Duras, priced at €6.11. I did not quite know what to expect, a rubbery finish perhaps, but, as it turned out, it was a medium bodied easy-drinking wine.

In all fairness to Portugal, I could have found a better Portuguese red in a similar style for similar money, from Dão for example, but the name on the label made it well worthwhile!

Moving back into more serious territory but without breaking the bank, I ventured to Haut-Médoc for a magnum of Cru Bourgeois from Château Barreyres, priced at €17.65.

This 2011 vintage is drinking beautifully with rich forest berry notes on the nose, well rounded tannins and a long dry finish. But there is much more to discover, with Pauillac, Margaux and Saint-Estèphe just a few of the references amongst the more serious stuff. It is however clear that the selection is the choice of a red wine lover as there are comparatively few whites on offer. 

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]