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

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.

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

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”.

French minister causes stir after claiming wine is not like other alcohols

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”.

Member comments

  1. Basically I disagree with most of this article. These are my rules for choosing my favorite wines:

    Rose – never buy anything like a Bandol unless you want a stiff hangover. Choose the light rose wines around EUR 12 – 15

    Bordeaux – drinkable starts around EUR 20 and you can find really good ones around EUR 40

    Bourgogne blanc – choose Chassagne Montrachet and Mersault. Drinkable starts around EUR 40 and the really good ones fetch EUR 70

    Always remember that life is too short to drink the house wine.

  2. Utter tosh…..This comment from a reader is totally out of step with the buying habits of the majority of expats, who undoubtedly buy wine they can afford – I dare to suggest anyone who buys rosé at more than 12 Euros is a tourist.

  3. I think ‘Pathetic’ above has missed the point of the article… You’re not likely to get much at the supermarket over €20 (he must be thinking of Nicolas, where choice is almost irrelevant as the advice is free). I’d lean towards a €6-€12 Languedoc, France’s biggest growing region and good value as it doesn’t have the ‘snob factor’ of other regions quite yet as it’s less well known.

  4. 20 euros for bottle of red? Obviously a BORIS supporter. Most of us live in the real world. I regularly buy a Brouilly at 6 euros, and enjoy every drop. Muscadets, Aligoté between 4 and 8 for whites, and I’ve found a cheap from flavoursome rose Cote du Rhône St Saveur for 3.90 at Leclerc. I lash out wildly and buy the occasional Sancerre at 13 euros. In the end it’s what you like and how much you can afford! If you regularly buy wine over 20 euros, you’ve obviously enough money not to need advice.

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TIPS

Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets… and tips to avoid them

If you're someone who has had their holiday to France ruined by a pickpocket, then you're certainly not alone. And it isn't only in the French capital that you have to watch out.

Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets... and tips to avoid them
One reader said that people should watch out for pickpockets at Lyon train station (pictured above). Photo: AFP
A recent report revealed that 2019 has seen a surge of cases of pickpocketing on the Paris metro. But the French capital isn't the only place in France where you need to watch out for petty crime. 
 
We asked our readers who know France well to tell us where else in the country you need to be that extra bit cautious about your handbag, wallet or phone and for any advice on keeping possessions safe.  
 
Unsurprisingly many of the places mentioned by readers were in cities with high levels of tourism. 
 
One of the places that came up again and again was the eastern French city of Strasbourg, with readers noting that thieves tend to operate around the train station, old town and the very popular Christmas markets. 
 
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Photo: AFP

“I was targeted by pickpockets in Strasbourg walking near the old town. Two women – a 40-year-old woman with a 20-year-old girl — walked very close behind me, as I was walking very fast, and tried opening a small shoulder bag,” said Greg Moore from the US. 
 
Another reader said that they “watched a group of girls working the crowd at the Christmas markets.”
 
The beautiful southern French city of Nice was also highlighted by several readers as a place where it is wise to keep a close eye on your belongings. 
 
One reader noted that there are “pickpockets in abundance” and that the city in general “is horrible for pickpocketing”. 
 
“My credit and debit cards were stolen and used when we visited there a few years ago,” they said. 
 
Lyon, the capital city in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, is very popular with tourists who are drawn to the city for its architecture, culture – and of course the world famous cuisine. 
 
But while it's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by beautiful surroundings, Lyon was also highlighted by readers as a place to be cautious. 
 
Linda Martz, who has lived in the city for three years, told us that a pickpocket stole her wallet while she boarded a train. 
 
And another reader Sandra Beard told us that drivers should be particularly careful due to “scam artists” targeting people with cars.      
 
There are “scam artists who “help” you at parking ticket machines while they palm (and take) your credit card (and tells you the machine took your card),” she said.
 
“They have your PIN after looking over your shoulder,” she said, adding that when this happened to her the man “withdrew €5,000 from three banks before we froze our account (within 10 mins).”
 
Photo: AFP
 
It might not be so surprising that the resort town of Cannes on the French Riviera, which has a reputation as a bit of a playground for the rich, was also on readers' lists, with one saying that his brother was pickpocketed as he stepped onto a train at Cannes train station. 
 
Meanwhile reader Leslie White, who lives in Paris, said she and her husband were “hit with the 'bird poop scam'” while strolling in the grounds of the Domaine de Chantilly in northern France. 
 
“A plop of green goop landed on my head. A helpful couple walking behind us helped to clean us off with disposable wipes. My husband somehow had some on him too. They also cleaned out his wallet and of course it was they who had thrown the 'poop' at me in the first place. We didn’t figure it out until the next day,” she said. 
 
Other readers mentioned Tours train station and tram stop, the market in Arles – where reader Sue Byford said her gold necklace was snatched from her neck – and Disneyland, where one person told us they had their new phone stolen, as specific places where pickpockets operate.  
 
Advice
 
Police around France are aware of the high levels of pickpocketing in certain cities and have offered advice on how to avoid becoming a target, including avoiding the “temptation to make valuables, such as expensive handbags and jewellery, too visible or easy to take”. 
 
They have also advised caution when sitting on the terrasse of a bar or café. 
 
It's important to be “very vigilant, do not leave a wallet or phone on a table, in front of everyone” or leave your valuables in your jacket if you leave it slung over a chair,” the Rouen police previously told the French press. 
 
Our readers also had some suggestions of their own, including using zip ties on bags and neck pouches for credit cards and your phone. 
 
One reader said they take the extra precaution of putting mini-locks on all the zippers on their backpack. 
 
Two readers pointed out that unfortunately it is “necessary to be wary of friendly people”.
 
“Any distraction is an opportunity,” said one. 
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