The French and not buying Chilean Pinot

So after 4 days of drinking in numerous French wine bars i really was struck by the absence of ‘foreign’ wines. I know that there is somewhat of a ‘preference’ for an established wine growing country drinking their own wines but a 100% absence struck me as as a bit ‘closed minded’.

How can anyone deny the quality of italy, spain, eastern europe, english sparkling +the other 90% of the globe…! Seriously i didn’t see a non-french wine in 9-10 bars. (I was on holiday hmkay!)

I’d love to hear any perspective from French members as to why they feel this is. I guess you could include political and economic protectionism, certain patriotic qualities…? This wasn’t the case with beer weirdly…lots of excellent belgian bottles and even brewdog. Surely the rise of quality in other countries must be recognised?

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If you’re in a wine region, sometimes you can’t even find wine from a different French wine region.

The answer, I can say quite confidently, is because they are French.


Funny you mention that! Close friends of ours, who live in Spain, spent last Christmas with us and said they never drank such varied and excellent wines from all over the world. Me and the other half were a little baffled as to why they were so surprised by it - and they told us that it was virtually impossible to buy non- Spanish wine in Spain. They said one has to go to ‘specialist’ wine shops to try French or Italian wines, and you can forget about German/Austrian or even New World… I thought the whole thing sounded a bit unlikely, but now that you say this about France, I wonder if there is some ‘protectionism’ or loyalty to local wine going on in the major European wine producing countries…? I didn’t find this issue in Germany or Belgium, mind you. :thinking:

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I can understand a certain errrr symbolism about French wine to the French but the British accept German beer and Belgian beer alongside their own. It’s also clear that you can get Chinese and Japanese ceramics and that imported goods aside wine are respected so it’s not as if other goods and crafts aren’t respected. Why wine?

On another aside, i totally get and appreciate the heart, soul and stomach of the french…the boulangerie! :heart_eyes:

It was exactly the same in Portugal last September - some amazing wine shops, full of several hundred different bottles, every one local or at most from Portugal with one single exception - a bottle from the USA - for homesick tourists, I guess?! It was a lovely sight and I was impressed by their support for ‘homegrown’, but I guess they’re also missing out.

Perhaps with a long history of having to import wines ourselves, then we’ve much more experience importing from around the world and a more wildly knowledgeable customer base (thanks TWS!).


The good news about Portugese table wines is that they are underrated so its sometimes a treat to drink some decent local wines which you might normally come across.

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I think you might be onto something…? This is a bit like the food scene in the UK, compared to say, Spain, Germany or France. We’re like magpies, picking best stuff from all over the world- whereas other European countries seem to be fiercely protective of their local and national food heritage. I had so many conversation with German friends who had lived in England for a while and got used to the variety of cuisines, and then felt a bit disappointed with the lack of choice back home. Same with Spanish friends who are utterly sick of tapas- as much as they love it- and often yearn for a nice curry or Japanese food or whatever it is that doesn’t include jamon y queso … So perhaps the wine situation is no different. These European countries have been making wines for centuries, and so are happy to stick to their own, and not particularly interested about what other countries have to offer?

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Similar in California, the majority of the wine isles are full to the brim of US and Californian wine. The European contribution tends to be massively overpriced and of somewhat substandard. I wonder, in European countries if there is such a thing as a TWS equivalent .There must be wine clubs who are catering for the lack of International wines on merchants shop floors?


If I may get a bit philosophical here (and also play a bit of devil’s advocate), I would say that this might actually be a good thing for all of us.

Firstly, would you really want every country in the world to sell every wine available?

It would make the differences between your experiences in each country much smaller. You WANT to go to France to experience French culture, not to have to dig through a local restaurant’s list to find the local wines amongst the same international experiences you get at home.

Plus it would make competition for limited stocks even worse!

However, more importantly, I think this marks a real psychological, philosophical and cultural difference in our approaches to wine in each country.

We, in the UK, are experienced in trading it and finding experiences from all over the world (though remember we’ve only been quite so open to New World wines ourselves relatively recently - though I think that The Society has been at the forefront of this from the very beginning).

If you live in a country with hundreds of years of grape-growing and wine making history, then the ‘local’ wine (whether that is village, region or country) is an integral part of your experience of the world. You don’t necessarily see wines as separate objects to be classified, compared and collected in the same way that we do.

A Lancashire hotpot may be a wonderful thing, but its magnificence does not mean it should be served in Lyon, Lausanne and Ljubljana :slight_smile:

I had a realisation about this when trying to help to promote Swiss wines. I got to know them a bit better by visiting one year, and when I got home I tried the usual arguments of "you’ll never sell them to consumers in the UK because they are too expensive and they will not understand why they should buy YOUR Merlot / Syrah / Chasselas instead of ones from all over the world … " then I realised I was encouraging them to do exactly the opposite, which was to make their wines like everyone else’s just to compete. In fact, they sell very well to consumers within their own market and those that leave the country should leave for a very specific reason - and if you want to really experience them, then you can go to that country to experience not just the wine, but the wine context.


Of course there are shops where you can find other wines (Lavinia in Barcelona, Paris, Geneva, and probably other places, an obvious example), and there are restaurants with other wines on their lists. As the thread on wine lists here showed, there are also restaurants with limited wine lists everywhere. If you go to the restaurants and shops which expect foreign visitors, you will find what they expect foreign visitors to want.

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I think there is also a case for only drinking the wine of that country within the country as usually the local food matches well with the local wine and as we know, food and wine pairing is very important. It might be your favorite wine, but might not match with the local food.

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And, as my husband pointed out to me, there might also be a good environmental argument to encourage the limit on export/import of wine both within and without Europe, considering CO2 impact, traffic implication etc. Perhaps we are just so used to the notion of ‘variety’ here in the UK, that the idea that we cannot access it elsewhere just seems odd. But actually, thinking about it more deeply- there is something quite lovely about a culture celebrating its own wine (and food) traditions, and as @M1tch points out- usually what grows together goes together. Food for thought, for sure!


A Lancashire hotpot IS a wonderful thing… they’re missing out… I feel sorry for them now.


If I still lived in Hungary (France, Spain, Italy etc.) I am sure I would almost exclusively drink Hungarian (French, Spanish, italian, etc.) wine, but as I live in a country that does not produce the variety I crave and that has as a result developed access to the whole world I am happy to take advantage of the variety from everywhere.


Absolutely. When I lived in Beirut, I only drank Lebanese (admittedly the tax on imported wine made UK duty look minimal…!) and the variety was fine - all price points and styles, including sweet wines, VDNs and what have you. Not to mention that homemade fortified stuff I had with the family I spent Christmas with - what a blur that was…

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Australia is largely the same, but I suspect this is as much for tax/duty reasons than anything else. The exceptions have always been Champagne and ‘fine wine’ lists but you’re paying a lot extra.

I think it’d be very dull if you saw the same wines/beers on the list in any given bar anywhere in the world. You already see this with the ubiquitous international pale lager brands, and the homogenisation of international wine styles.

In countries with a history of producing wine, the tendency is towards supporting the home team, which is understandable. I remember when the Australian market was first being flooded with cheap NZ Sauv Blanc - a winemaker pointed out that every bottle of foreign wine sold is one not being sold by a local winery.

The food miles/sustainability argument is valid, too - especially to Australia!


Once, a very long time ago we had friends in Lille and always visited a lovely restaurant out in the country which had a superb cellar. They did this tasting menu thing (a long time before it was popular here) with wine matches served blind. I guessed a couple right, which surprised them as the first one was a Chilean Cab, unusual in France but very distinctive if you know it.

The other, and I still remember even though it was 25 years ago, I guessed Loire Sauvignon, “QUI but where”, Sancerre, “NON nearly”, then it hit me and I know, “Henri Pelle’s Menetou-Salon”. I nailed it.


Rarely have I had a bad Menetou, I love the stuff. :slightly_smiling_face:


Agree!.. the safest bet for Loire Sauvignon.

And this wine comes from vineyards which are yards from the Sancerre ones that Pelle owns, but a fair bit cheaper.

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