Buying wine? Always go for real long term value…

The evidence of many years enjoying wine is here. It also hangs in our home. I have made two notice boards from corks we have pulled and I have enough corks to make many more.

Living here in Ireland, I know plenty of chaps who get value in their drink by taking an estate car or a ‘white van’ across to France on the ferry to buy wine and beer in bulk at a discount. They travel the minimum distance from the port, load the van and having spent the minimum amount of time away, make their way back home. They succeed in getting cheap drink.

My approach is a bit different. I bring the family car (and the family) over to France. I abandon my life in Ireland. I neglect to shave. I don’t look at newspapers and I don’t look at TV. I ignore email and avoid the Internet.

One of the great artworks at Château de Lastours in the Corbières region. I have often bought their wine. One cold winter, a friend and I stopped there and dined like lords over a long lunch in the Chateau restaurant. We were the only diners and were treated with incredible hospitality.

I spend two or three weeks in a region, getting to know the local food and wine. I visit the vineyards and talk to the producers. I spend inordinate amounts of time in the wine section of the supermarket. We visit the local markets, a great annual novelty for us and an important part of French rural life. We eat well on locally produced food and we match that with regional wines. It is not difficult to do. It is hugely rewarding.

The view over the roofs in St. Emilion. A tourist trap for sure but well worth the visit.

The real rewards come some years after the holiday. Each year, I carefully select some wines to bring home with us. In the early years, I made lots of mistakes. This is part of the process. I still make mistakes only less of them. The wines we bring back now get laid down for a number of years. My storage facility (the dining room that we use for little else) is not ideal but we get by.

Part of my current stock of wine from Chateau Petit Gravet in St. Emilion. Every time we open a bottle, I am brought back to those hot summer days enjoying the tasting and the company of our French friends.

The real bonus in all of this is not really in drinking the wine. It is in the memories that are released when I select a bottle from the rack or box. Each time I pull the cork on a wine that I have selected, I am brought back to the holiday, the warming French summer sun, the times we have enjoyed, the people we have met and the friends we have waiting for us in France the next time we go there.

My better half (left) with Marie from Chateau Petit Gravet. This picture dates from 2005. One of the many years when we enjoyed the purchase process from this fine chateau.

I suppose that the real point is that the wine itself is a big attraction but the real enjoyment is derived from the memories and combinations of wine, food and friends. That makes for real value in wine buying. Long term value that one gets to enjoy again and again. Bring on next year…..

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  • It sounds like you have fun, like us 🙂 Have you been to Beaune yet? Chalon sur Saone? Nuits St. George? These are great areas to eat, drink, meet super people and buy some good wine.

    • No, no, no. All treats in store. An observation; My French is only two years at night school and enthusiasm. I have listened to all sorts of people talk of the aloof French, so rude and unhelpful. My experience over many years has been a welcome almost everywhere and kindness, courtesy and friendliness. I believe this is because we always make the effort to live a French life while we are over there and we ask for help with the understanding. I love the country.

  • Oh you damnable man! You have given me such an ache. I’m off to Madeira for Christmas and I will stash what I can of their sweet nectar on the return flight. But I now ache for Bordeaux and the Languedoc. Roll on spring and the money and opportunity for a long drive to the sun.
    Nice blog and lovely sentiments.
    I’ve just finished a spell part time working for a Cork wine merchants. They struggled a bit in the current climate and I had to go but I enjoyed my time there. One meets such lovely people talking wine.
    Regards, david

    • I have the ache myself at present. Given the state of everything, my own purchasing over the past couple of years has been more modest than in the past and my stocks are lower now than they have been in years. I am resolved to get back down there next year and to repeat the process.

      There are so many good companies and people suffering at present. The future austerity budgets will only add to the difficulty. It makes the stolen time in that fine country all the more valuable.
      Stay well,

  • I have yet to experience France in search of wine. But I have done my time in the Napa/Sonoma valley, and currently live in El Dorado County, well noted for exuberant zinfandel’s, syrah’s, and some pretty good chardonnay’s. The winery that I currently work out has a flight of 16 wines ranging from Sauvignon Blanc to its flagship wine–Petite Sirah. Most of the wineries up here in the Sierra Foothills are small, producing between 4000 to 15000 cases of wine each year. You are most welcome to come and experience this wine region, and to see where gold was discovered too! Our area is small compared to the various wine growing regions in France, Italy and Germany, but there is a rustic feel, and hospitality that is quite unique to the area! Lovely blog Conor!

  • Mmm… I love this post… it makes me ache for sun and someplace unfamiliar but warm and welcoming.

    • Thanks Danielle,
      It has that effect on me too. I can’t wait for next summer and the long drive through France.

  • Jealous! What I wouldn’t give to spend a few weeks in France tasting wine! Someday. For now, my wine shopping is confined to the supermarket and an occasional visit to a modest local winery. Sigh.

  • Really enjoyed this post! You are right that food and drink are powerful memory triggers! How nice to be able to pop a cork and “go on vacation”!

  • This post speaks to me in so many ways: First, taking the time to really get to know a place; the enjoyment of the item is about making the connection with what you’re purchasing. Second, the delight I get in a dish is often enhanced through a human connection with what I’m eating. In the case with wine, as you have shown above, it’s not about the wine but the experience we are reliving when we open a bottle, something my wife and I enjoy whenever we partake of the same variety served at our wedding. I find this is also true with recipes, such as making my mother’s favorite banana bread. The recipe is simple and uses pre-mixed ingredients (Bisquick), but reading her cursive on the worn recipe card and tasting the loaf always reminds me of her. I’m so glad you found my blog so I could bounce over to yours.

    • Thanks for those kind words Mark. I get great fun from it all. I have just finished a meal with my own mum and the rest of my family and my niece. The conversation drifted to the meals we all used to enjoy. My niece told us of meals she cooks that her mother (my late sister) used to cook for her. We all then talked about meals that mum used to cook. If one values the important things (family) it is a very important part of it all. Probably because we all live disperate lives and only spend time together around the table.

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