Wines to buy on a French road trip

Picture: Alamy/PA

Whether you’re heading back from a wine holiday, or looking for smart buys on a trip across the Channel, these are the labels to try, says Sam Wylie-Harris


As any wine lover will agree, France has it all. But where do you begin if you’re not sure which are the go-to appellations if you’re after a bargain, or find French labels baffling when it’s by region and not the grape variety?

Or you simply may want to stock up at Calais with something less spendy than what’s available on the other side.

“Savvy shoppers know one way is to look to lesser-known wine regions to find wines you’re guaranteed to love,” says Helena Nicklin, Ocado wine ambassador.

“A quick stop-off in Calais will also mean you should save on international shipping costs when going for French wines,” she explains.

So, whether a trip to France is on the horizon or not, here are some alternatives to your classics to seek out…


Provence rosé

“If you’re a fan of a light, quaffable Provence rosé, you don’t have to go far off the beaten track to find wines similar to those you love, but which offer great value for money,” says Dan Farrell-Wright, director at Wickhams Wines.

“Look for wines labelled IGP Méditérranée – the appellation covers most of southern France and these wines will often be equally pale, full of red fruit and citrus flavours, and made using the same blend of grape varieties.”

Nicklin says: “Love Whispering Angel? Provence put pink wine firmly on the map, but it often comes with a price tag to match, especially trendy ones like Whispering Angel.”

“Cote des Roses celebrates the Mediterranean lifestyle, and looking to Languedoc next door is a great way to find brilliantly priced pinks that are pale and elegant,” says Nicklin.

“Yet often with a bit more fruitiness.”



For those who prefer a full-bodied chardonnay from Burgundy, Farrell-Wright suggests looking for Beaujolais Blanc which he cites as an insiders’ secret.

“These wines are 100% Chardonnay and Beaujolais is just south of Burgundy. The style is similar to those found in and around Mâcon, but the name means they are much cheaper,” he adds.

“And they rarely make their way out of France.”

If you can’t track down a Beaujolais Blanc, think about stocking up on chardonnay from Mâcon-Villages in southern Burgundy, where you’ll get more bang for your buck than a premier cru.



“Sancerre is the famous Loire Valley home of elegant, nettle-y sauvignon blanc, but there are other appellations around it that also produce a lighter, minerally style of the grape,” says Nicklin.

“Try an IGP version from the Loire and you’re usually looking at around half the price.”

And don’t forget seafood-loving muscadet from the western end of the Loire Valley. Certainly worth keeping an eye out for if you’re touring around, especially those labelled Sur Lie – aged on lees for more depth and complexity, with a yeasty creaminess – and a natural with oysters and shellfish.


Rhône reds

As Nicklin puts it: “Good old Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of those wine names that sticks in your head for being “one of the good ones”.

“However, many grenache or syrah-based blends will offer a similar hit of boozy figs, bramble fruit and spice.

“A Côtes-du-Rhône or Lirac red will hit the spot, or even just a juicy, southern French syrah.”

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter