France is home to some of the best wine in the world, and if you want to save a little money while trying to sip your way around the country, the foire aux vins is where to do it! The twice yearly wine fairs in France will surely introduce you to new bottles from locales near and far. The best part is you don’t have to look much further than your French grocery store!
Before moving to France, wine wasn’t a weekly thing for me. I’d have a glass or two every couple of months, mostly when out to eat or at a special party. Wine isn’t cheap and when I’d treat myself at home, I’d end up pouring half the bottle down the drain anyway since I lived alone.
But that’s changed!
After living in France awhile, I’ve changed my ways and have jumped on the wine bandwagon. Why the heck not have wine with dinner? My area has no shortage of fantastic (and affordable) wine producers and then let’s not forget about the grocery stores. You can find an excellent bottle of wine for under 10 euros and sometimes even considerably less than that. I happily have a glass of wine with dinner on the weekends these days.
If living in France has taught me anything, it’s to be open minded about different ways of doing things. Buying wine at the grocery store for 5 euros is a normal thing to do here for many of us (whereas in the US, anything that cheap wouldn’t be drinkable).
Some local Loire Valley wines are 5-7 euros/bottle and are excellent. Don’t let wine snobs tell you differently. Wine is subjective, so if you like a particular bottle, it doesn’t matter what you paid or where you got it. No judgment! Enjoy what you like!
About the foire aux vins
Right now, it’s foire aux vins time. The wine fair coincides perfectly with the back to school season. Coincidence? I think not. These twice yearly wine sales — the other one is in the spring — at retail outlets like grocery stores and wine shops boast some of the best bottles around ranging in price from a couple of euros all the way up to top vintages. They’re so popular that supermarkets do upwards of 20% of their annual wine sales in a few short weeks!
I’m stocking up for the holidays now.
Each supermarket has their own brochure with specialty offerings, but one that caught my eye was Lidl. They have a “master of wine” giving his opinion on some of the best finds in addition to pairing suggestions next to each wine. It’s a really well-done brochure with many picks under 5 euros/bottle.
Although the foire aux vins is a fantastic place to get a deal on wine, keep in mind that regular everyday French wine prices are a steal. So fear not if you’re in France at another time of year. You’ll find all kinds of excellent bottles for well under 10 euros — promise.
One other quick note. The wine fairs can also be a place where retailers try to unload less desirable wines that have been hanging around on the shelves for too long. Do your research and follow the experts’ picks. That’s why each retailer puts out a guide. But then again, what’s “less desirable” to you might be a home run for me, so have fun trying out something new.
If you’re serious about the fairs, there are special wine guides like this one dedicated to educating the consumer on the best buys.
Tips for buying wine at the foire aux vins:
- Show up early on the first day. I love a good deal and will do whatever it takes to get it. If you are looking to score specific bottles, it’s best to arrive at the store on the very first day of the sale because if you wait until a couple of days later, you risk not finding the bottles you want at all. Hordes of people show up right as the stores open and the good stuff sells out right away. I learned this the hard way!
- When in doubt, buy 2+ bottles. If you try a particular wine and want to go back to buy more, it’ll likely be sold out by then. To avoid disappointment when you go to stock up on more, it’s best to buy at least 2 bottles of everything just in case you really like it. Trust me, it won’t be there the next time you go back to the store.
- Bring your own cartons. Supermarkets may be short on cardboard boxes that you’ll definitely need to transport your bottles. If you have some lying around at home, bring them with you to the foire aux vins. No one wants bottles rolling around in the back of the car!
Have you experienced a foire aux vins in France? Find anything good? I feel silly asking that because OF COURSE YOU DID!