Are you local?
I hate it when people ask me if I’m local. Because to me, it’s not where you are from but what you are like. I’ve met great people from horrible places and the other way round too.
But, if you were a grape, where you come from matters rather a lot. It matters in the way that really counts; in money. Why? Because wine, in Europe at least, is classified geographically.
So, in Italy there are just a few square miles of land from which you can make Barolo. If you are the same grape from a mile down the road the wine you make is just Nebbiolo from somewhere else in Italy. And I reckon Nebbiolo from somewhere is at least £10 a bottle cheaper than Barolo.
This happens in a lot of places. Think of the really famous wines you know; Champagne, Chateauneuf, Chianti, Chablis, and that’s just the C’s. All of these command a price premium because of their name. The odd thing is that the name itself is no guarantee of quality. So it is very possibly to get a better wine from just outside the designated area, made from the same grapes in the same way, sometimes by the same person that is far cheaper.
Now that, to me, sounds like an opportunity. An opportunity to drink great wine for sensible prices, if you shop around for the “nearly ran” areas.
I’m thinking of some amazing parts of the South Rhone, the appellations of Lirac, Gigondas, and the Cotes du Rhone Villages like Plan de Dieu and Cairanne. These places have the same climate as Chateauneuf, similar topography, soil and similar grapes. So it is no surprise that you can buy wine every bit as spicy, robust and fantastic as Chateauneuf but for £10 or so less.
The same is true for the sparkling Cremant de Bourgogne wines of Burgundy, Nebbiolo from Langhe in North West Italy, and in a similar way for many of the wines from the “New World”. I’ve drunk superb Cabernet Merlot from Australia at £10 made in a great, restrained and powerful style by a man trained at Chateau Margaux. The origin of that style is classic Bordeaux, the most expensive area for wine in the world.
So the moral of the story is shop around, explore the outer reaches of the shelves and ask your wine merchant for a recommendation. The wines may not be from the right part of town but who cares if you are local.