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Readers' tips: How to choose a good bottle of wine in a French supermarket

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Readers' tips: How to choose a good bottle of wine in a French supermarket
Photos: AFP
15:01 CET+01:00
Each week The Local asks readers to share their tips about various aspects of living in France. This week we asked our readers what advice they have on finding a good bouteille de vin at le supermarché.

Life in France has its dilemmas, not least choosing the right bottle of wine when there’s an everlasting aisle in the supermarket dedicated to the stuff. 

Unless you’re a sommelier or a seasoned connoisseur, sifting through the good, the bad and the downright ugly can be quite the challenge.

Regular reader MrsMacFeegle feels this pain, tweeting: “Our local supermarket has three double sided aisles of wine, around half of which is very, very local.”

Luckily The Local France’s resident readers have offered up some useful tips that should make the decision-making process a little less overwhelming.

Firstly, there’s the old trick of ‘if it sells a lot, then it must be good’.

That’s what reader Diana recommends, despite her somewhat compromising Twitter handle (@VinDeMerde): "Buy the one with the least stock left on the shelf."

Andrew Poodle agrees, saying that “they're almost gone for a reason.” 

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For the tech-savvy, several readers recommended wine comparison app Vivino, which receives an average 25,000 wine bottle photos and recommendations from users every day. Simply snap a pic of the bottle’s label and you’re likely to be redirected to views on it from people who have already ‘sampled’ it.

For those who prefer to read wine reviews on paper, Jane Fletcher suggested: “Know your grapes and regions, then look for Guide Hachette labels.”

Guide Hachette des Vins is a French wine buying guide that’s been around since the 80s and is generally considered to be the country’s most trusted authority on les vins français.

Reviews are traditionally conducted through blind tasting panels, meaning that snobbishness isn’t usually on the menu. They also have an app.

And how about price? Does it matter?

According to Robin Kellet, it’s best to “buy one for at least 3x the price of the nastiest bottle on sale”, whereas Dominique Bellaud recommends you “don't try anything under €6.”

Philip the Book Man’s price quality threshold is slightly lower, tweeting “never pay less than €2.40 for a red. Works for me”.

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In essence, price isn’t everything, but go too low and you might end up with vinegar rather than wine.

The only supermarkets in France that were mentioned by readers for having an overall good quality-price ratio were Aldi and Lidl.

There are benefits to reading the small print on labels too. “Choose the wine with the green sticker,” reader Sarah Schmidt recommends, in reference to the fact that these are for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée or Appellation d’Origine Protégée wines (AOP and AOC), usually a sign of good quality.

Also keep a look out for the letter “R”, standing for récoltant (wine grower) as Richard Williams suggests, as it means that the wine was bottled by the same harvester who owns the grapes and produced the wine.

Other recommendations include the following by reader Emma Bentley: “Look for crowd pleasers like Côtes du Rhone and Languedoc-Roussillon, for reds. Sparkling: plump for a Crémant. Whites & rosé: Loire and Provence. Buy organic”.

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