I was back in the UK last week for a few days.  While in London, I received an email from Ian, an ex-client and friend.  Ian and his family spent a year or so living and renovating a house here in France and, though they have now returned to the UK, still visit their property for holidays and are big time fans of France.  Ian has a theory that in France the paint is more expensive and poorer quality than in the UK and that the wine is cheaper and better.  I’m not sure there’s a direct link between the two but – having spent most of today decorating the kitchen in our new gite – I’d have to agree.  The price v. quality issue is an interesting one, however (at least in relation to wine). 

Many people visit France thinking that they’ll be able to buy very nice, very cheap wine.  When you’re in the supermarket, you can certainly pick up very cheap wine – a bottle of Bordeaux red can be yours for as little as a euro and a half, if not less.  But I wouldn’t recommend it.  Having said that, you can pick up a very drinkable bottle of Bordeaux for 5 euros (about £3.50).  What’s more interesting to me (and Ian) is whether the same bottle of good quality wine is significantly less expensive here than in the UK.  I’d love to do a decent comparison at some stage, but for starters I decided to pop into a UK wine retailer and see if I could find any wines that I’ve recently enjoyed here in France.

I ducked into a branch of Nicolas on Great Portland Street in London.  OK, so for starters this isn’t going to be the cheapest place to buy wine in the UK – being right in the middle of one of the world’s most expensive cities – but it was the best I could do!  I found a bottle of the Chateau Bouscaut Pessac-Leognan white we’ve enjoyed recently.  They only had a 2001 vintage – whereas we’ve been drinking the 2004 – so it isn’t a direct comparison, but I was still suprised to see it on the shelf priced at £23.75 (roughly 35 euros!) when I’d paid 12,45 euros (about £8.50) for the 2004 here in France.  OK, so the 2001 is bound to be a bit more expensive than the 2004 (though the 2004 is thought to be particularly good) and central London wine retailer v. rural French supermarket is also a factor, but such a price differential was still a shock. 

Clearly this is a tiny sample, but I’ll be making a point of checking prices on both sides of the channel in the future, if only to make some informed recommendations regarding exceptional value to visiting friends!