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.
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 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.
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.
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…..