On our trip to Calais we visited a huge hypermarket, of its ninety-odd aisles about five were filled with wine. The selection appeared to suffer from what I have seen in many other French super/hypermarkets, namely an excess of undrinkable dross.
It seems very important to the big supermarkets that they cover as many of France’s innumerable appellations as possible. Even really obscure appellations are represented in the bigger shops. However, it only appears that having many wines is important, there is no quality bar that has to be cleared.
When in the shop yesterday there was in excess of twenty minor St. Emillion wines on offer in one area of the wine section. Most of these were from unheard-of producers and those that were recognisable were evil filth. The Burgundy section was over-flowing with vile rubbish that would probably only be suitable for putting on chips. It was actually depressing to see so much dross, and so much being purchased by people who were clearly going to have a rotten time when they popped the bottle. I am not sure it is true that people buying the stuff don’t know any better, the wines were shockingly poor and anyone would be able to tell that when forced to drink them.
Strange as it may seem, I think British supermarkets do a bit better in their wine selection. Not that they lack dross, but they generally tend to have a smaller selection of well-made wines that will appeal to a wide selection of people. The French model of simply trying to cover all bases, even if it means retailing rubbish, seems a strange idea for a country that produces the best wines in the world. By selling so much swill they damage the name of French wine.