When I moved from Budapest to Dijon in September 2015, I found myself wondering, “Where’s all the French wine?”
In Dijon, it should be no surprise that you can find ample Burgundy wine. As the capital of the famous Burgundy wine region, the local wine is everywhere. The reds are mainly Pinot Noir, unless you’re talking about Beaujolais, which means Gamay. The whites are predominantly Chardonnay. There’s a sparkler too—Crémant de Bourgogne—the majority of which is made from the main grapes.
Local producers and many wine enthusiasts proclaim that Burgundy wines are the best in the world. There seems to be an ongoing battle with Bordeaux for that designation, although there are other regions around the world that offer greatness and wines that I prefer.
During a fall visit to a nearby winery, one owner—we’ll call him an “interesting” character—said the following about Burgundy: “We make the best wines in the world. And we make the worst wines in the world.” Some wines on local grocery store shelves speak to the latter part of his assertion.
When I moved to Dijon, I anticipated enjoying the full realm of French wines, particularly those from Alsace and the Rhone. I imagined stores lined with more options than what I had found in the Washington, DC area.
I was wrong.
When you’re in Burgundy, those are the wines that are available. I understand the whole regionally-focused thing, but, come on…I’m in France. I want a decent assortment of French wines. But no. The selection is mostly Burgundy wines, maybe as much as 90%. Then there’s 5% Bordeaux, Champagne, and the rest of France and 5% from the rest of the world. I had a much better—a much better—selection of French wines when I lived in the Washington, DC area.
No wonder people in Burgundy don’t think much about drinking other wines. For the most part, they can’t. And the international wines that are available aren’t always the best representatives of that country or grape, so people probably aren’t even interested.
But I am. I’m not even that excited about Burgundy wine. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay aren’t my favorite grapes. They’re not even my second favorite grapes. Or third or…you get the point. There are obviously some great wines, but all too often you have to pay a lot to get them.
For the time that I live in Dijon, I’m left with a problem that many wine enthusiasts would welcome—a wine repertoire limited to Burgundy wines…and a few others. With the beginning of the new year, I think it’s time to reframe that “problem” and embrace it as a challenge. Rather than ask “Where’s all the French wine?” I need to think of it as a scavenger or, better yet, a treasure hunt. How do I find the gems of Burgundy: wines that I enjoy at prices that I don’t mind paying. It might take some time and effort, but no pain, no gain, right? Not a bad goal for 2016. I hope you find some treasure in 2016 too!