Many of us think of French wine and food as fussy and difficult and expensive. But that is definitely not true as you can tell from a visit to your nearby Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Bevmo where you can find a number of French wines under $20 as well as heat and eat food. However, with a little effort, you can have an amazing gourmet yet causal meal without spending a great deal on food or wine.
So! What do you get for $5 or $10 or $20 for a bottle of French wine?
Recently we tasted four wines in four glasses — all at $20 or under and we paired them with grilled cheese — French style two ways.
Here’s the truth: We do gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches a lot. They have a great intensity of flavor that brings out the wine — and the wine brings out the meal. There’s a reason why wine and cheese are a classic pairing! (Read more about how to taste wine and cheese together here). So when we were trying to come up with a menu to go with our French wine finds under $20 I suggested we do grilled cheese the French way and fortunately Sue was game to make two kinds: Croque Monsieur which was new to her and Monte Cristo which is one of my favorites!
Inexpensive wines and easy meals that have a flavor profile that hits it out of the ball park!
2016 Belles Vignes – Collection Sauvignon Blanc – Trader Joes – $5 – 12% alcohol
Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rose 2015 SRP $13 (67% Syrah 33% Mourvèdre)
2015 – Chablis – Champs Royaux – William Fevre – SRP – $20 – 12.5% alcohol
2014 – Chateau Moulin a Vent – Moulis En Medoc – Cru Bourgeois – 14% alcohol $20
- Cheese plate: camembert, gorgonzola torte with pecans and cranberries, fontina, aged gouda, coppa salami
- Croquet Monsieur http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/croque_monsieur_ham_and_cheese_sandwich/
- Monte Cristo http://www.macheesmo.com/the-classic-monte-cristo-sandwich/
- Spring greens with blackberries and tomatoes with basil olive oil add blackberry balsamic vinegar
How did the wines stack up to our French Grilled Cheese extravaganza? The light freshness of our salad went perfectly with our grilled cheese. The freshness on the berries and the veggies balanced out the heaviness of the cheese sandwich. The bread we used was a sliced french brioche from Trader Joe’s that was almost like using a croissant. The bread really made our sandwiches this evening.
What a perfect combination of flavors!
2016 Belles Vignes – Collection Sauvignon Blanc – Trader Joes – $4.99 – 12% alcohol
This is the go to or house wine from Sue’s friends and so it seemed an obvious wine to buy at Trader Joe’s to go with this blog post especially since Sue was at TJ’s to get grilled cheese ingredients and she had recently tasted this wine. We used a sauvignon blanc glass.
What a treat for $5!
If you like a New Zealand style Sauv blanc with those grassy, gooseberry notes, this is the wine for you. Sue was introduced to this wine by a couple of good friends that she does happy hour with regularly; they buy this wine by the case! It is easy drinking and goes great with a number of cheeses. Last week Sue says they were loving it with the Purple Haze by Cypress Grove Creamery. The Goat Cheese with the lavender herbs were out of this world with this wine. Sue and I regularly find little gems at our local Trader Joe’s and this is one of them. Caesar Salad or a nice pesto would go so nicely with this wine. It is a relatively simple wine that can go well with a number of flavors. For $5, screw top easy access? Just make sure it is cold as it is better chilled.
While on the nose more typical of a NZ suave blanc with some that cat pee aromas, this wine loved the rosemary ham, and the sweetness, which is a hint of powdered sugar and a bit of nutmeg in the wine. It liked the Croque Monsieur as well where more of the herbal notes jumped out. I thought it would do better with the salad but it was ho-hum: a little bit of goat cheese would have made this salad pop and work better with the wine but we did not add cheese to our salad because we had so much cheese in our meal!
Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rose 2015 SRP $13
67% Syrah 33% Mourvedre
I poured and discussed this wine at the International Wine Bogers Conferecen last year– and got to keep a bottle!
We chose to use a Pinot Grigio class for this wine to enhance the nose. Ours had a nice lip around the edges like a tulip. There is almost a sweet caramel on the nose. In comparison, the Sauv Blanc glass did not do much for the wine– it made it very bland. Fruit is more on the rainier cherry side and with a sweetness similar to bubble gum, or jack fruit, with notes of banana.
When you flood your palate with the wine, there is some nice acidity and minority; it goes fantastically with smoked or cured meat.
On the palate cherry and key lime that makes a beemster cheese taste like chocolate or cocoa nibs almost like a milk chocolate with nuts. Smoked gouda would really make this wine shine. The cheese and wine pair really well.
This wine had an amazing effect on our strong Camembert Au Calvados cheese. This is very strong cheese, that on its own is difficult to tackle, this wine takes that cheese funk and whips it into a lovely experience in the mouth. It literally transforms the cheese into something decadent and wonderful.
With the sweetness of the balsamic of the salad, I did not feel like it did anything to the wine. It made it sort of bland. The sandwiches were good with the rose, but not transformative, or as transformative as that funky Camembert. It went much better with our Béchamel sauce from the Croque Monsieur than it did with the Monte Cristo.
To me, this was the most versatile of the four wines; it played with all of the foods.
The nose on this wine is so fun and exciting. This was one of our favorite wines with our cheese plate, but it lost its holding with the other wines when we went into our meal. This might be nice with a cobb salad.
I bought this on recommendation at LA’s Wine House.
We used a chardonnay glass.
Sue did not like the Camembert with this wine; she found it to be a bit harsh, but I thought it to bring out more apple notes. Sue preferred this wine with our creamy fontina.
For Sue this was the least favorite of the four. Not because it was a bad wine, it just was the least her style. There was a bit more oak and buttery caramel vanilla. But when paired with rich foods it really stands up. would also be nice with fish and buerre blanc sauce.
The two different sandwiches brought out two different profiles in this wine. It has a really nice freshness as well as a richness. Give me seafood please: oyster, clams and lobster! But I also liked it with the bechemel sauce.
2014 – Chateau Moulin a Vent – Moulis En Medoc – Cru Bourgeois – 14% alcohol SRP $20
2014: 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot Vintage blend: 70% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc. In 2013 the blend was 75% merlot, 21% cab sauv, 4% cab franc. This wine was a sample for my review consideration.
This wine was the headliner of our meal tonight, the baking spices, berries, light fruit and citrus all went so well with our beautiful creamy cheesy goodness.
Color is dense, rich, reds with purple tones. Nose of cherry and spice. On the palate, red and blue fruit — cherry and blueberry– and really smooth. Medium bodied.
It opens up nicely: for $12–$20 bottles of French wine usually have a bit more barnyard and tannins. As you move up in price the smoothness and finesse shine through. It is silkier and smooth across the tongue.
While you might expect a Bordeaux lighter bodied wine as far as feeling in your mouth, there is not great girth or heft. It is a very pleasant wine however, well balanced and rolls across the tongue, silky and lovely. Really nice with the cured meat with pepper crust. When we combined the cured meat, camembert, and a bit of bread it worked so well.
This wine went so well with our salad. this is not a heavy-handed wine. With the nutmeg in the meal, it totally hit it off with the mellow easy characteristics in this wine. It also went fabulously with our salad. The rosemary, the blackberries and the balsamic with basil olive oil was great pairing. It loved the grilled cheese, it is not necessarily a salad wine, but by throwing in the blackberries and the blackberry balsamic, and the great basin rosemary pecans, went well with the wine.
This is the best wine on the table in both our opinion, it has the most complexity on the nose and on the palate. This was a very unusual wine to pair with the meal we had tonight, but it stood up to the challenge.
From the winery:
Terroir: Sandy clay on limestone plateau with Pyrenean gravel
Average age of the vines: 25 years
Vinification: Traditionnal and thermo-regulated with maceration of one month in tank
Ageing: 75% of the harvest goes through barrels, of which a third new
Production: 100 000 bottles
Importer: Oswines Trade LLC, Doral, Florida
Average price on the market: 20$
At the end of this meal, we were satisfied and so happy, yet we wanted to continue eating well after we had had enough! Look for posts from the authors below and plan to join our twitter chat (always fun) at 10:00 am central time on Saturday, August 19th, 2017. Look for our hashtag #Winophiles and please join in.
Here is the slate of participants:
Cooking to the Wine: Casa Rossa Rosé with Sardine & Roasted Zucchini Penne by Nicole at Somm’s Table
An Affordable Red and Tapenade, Languedoc-Style by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Exploring the Languedoc with Domaine Magellan by Lauren at The Swirling Dervish
4 French Wine Finds $20 and under with Croque Monsieur and Monte Cristo from Sue and I here on Wine Predator
Each day should be a celebration by Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm
Surprisingly Affordable Wine Region: Bordeaux! by Jeff at FoodWineClick!
My Favorite Under $20 Pet Nat; Patrice Colin “Les Perles Gris” by Martin at ENOFLYZ
Affordable French Wines Paired with Simple Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner by Jane at Always Ravenous
Two Bargains from Bordeaux and Bergerac by Lynn at Savor the Harvest
Mapping France in Wine Bottles: Where to Get Affordable French Wine by our host Jill at L’occasion