Good Spirits: Affordable French Wine

Finding a delicious bottle of French wine is easy—but one that’s affordable, too? That can be more difficult, unless you know about the wines from Languedoc.

Historically, this Southwest region grew grapes and produced cheap, filler wines. Then, several years ago, a renegade group of vintners decided the area’s diverse soils and weather patterns could create truly great wines. So they got to work and—voilà! The Languedoc now produces excellent and inexpensive wines—rich and spicy reds, fruity whites and sparklers. Here are some excellent ones to seek out.

Paul Mas Estate Marsanne, 2012 ($13)

The Marsanne grape is often added to blends to give them body. Enjoy the full expression of this white grape in this elegant honeyed wine that’s lush with tropical fruit flavors, sweet melon and dried pear. It’s a great match with seafood and fish.

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut ($13)

In 1531, Benedictine monks from Saint-Hilaire were producing sparkling wine called Blanquette. This was France’s first bubbly (not Champagne!). Crisp and delicate, with peach and candied lemon peel notes, Blanquette is a blend of Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc grapes. Serve with fresh oysters or fruit desserts.

Arrogant Frog Lily Pad Red Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2012 ($11)

Everyday luxury is the mantra of Domaines Paul Mas, maker of this smooth, full-bodied red with hints of plum, blackberry jam and vanilla. Try with lamb, chicken or pasta.

Château de Flaugergues, 2011 ($14)

This lush blend of Syrah, Grenache Noire and Mouvedre brims with ripe cherries, minerals and spice. Pair with grilled salmon or pork.

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