Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Le Dernier Mot - articles by Samantha David



One quick glance at the InterMarché promos and you know exactly where you are in the year.  It must be late autumn because the school books have been packed away and the Halloween masks dragged out of storage.  Next up is the wine.

      Don't ask me why but here in our corner of the Languedoc, November seems to be the month in which the whole population stocks up on wine.  (Pronounced "le veng".)  The shelves are groaning with promos, and it's not all weird and wacky Beaujolais Nouveau either.  There's all sorts of veng.  Even veng-fang* if your wallet can run to it.  Funny shaped bottles, wild pictorial labels, red, white and pink, soft, rough, fruity... it's all there.  Everything your heart could desire, and with prices starting at less than two euros, it would be mad to hold back.

      Except that - shhh! - some of it is utterly disgusting.  I once bought a bottle of red in a supermarket promo that literally made our teeth squeak.  I promise it's true.  After one sip, our mouths went Sahara dry and our teeth started squeaking as we breathed in and out.  The JMs were hysterical with laughter.  The SP was less amused.

      I invested in decent wine, which was delicious of course - but was informed that when living in France we had to learn to shop intelligently.  Oh dear.  My shopping is either absent-minded or over-enthusiastic.  (I rely on taking things back.)  Still, I knew he was right on the veng front.

      My first attempt involved going shopping with a wine-guide, a notebook and my extra-strong reading glasses.  It wasn't particularly successful: I never really got to grips with my grapes and the SP was still pulling faces over the petit rouge.

      So I swapped to the tried-and-trusted method of never buying the absolute cheapest and only buying wine with prices ending in five.  It sort of worked but wasn't much more reliable than the old schoolbook method.  I was still occasionally buying bottles which could have stripped the paint off the QE2.

      Laurence the hedge-sculptor confided that he relies on the colour of the foil covering the cork.  Blue is very good, black is okay, and red is to be avoided, he says.  I don't see why this shouldn't work but the SP banned me from attempting it.

      So I solved the problem by only buying champagne.  After all, it comes in pink as well as white, never makes your teeth squeak, and has that cuddly little side effect of making everyone terrifically happy and giggly.  I was justifiable pleased with myself.

      The results weren't quite what I'd hoped for.  "I'm not drinking champagne with la dope,"** he declared.  "Why can't we have a decent bottle of red?  We live in France.  Stop mucking around.  Get thee to a winery, Woman!"

      Blimey.  He was serious.

      So off I went to InterMarché again, and hung around the wine shelves looking stupid until along came Marie-France and efficiently loaded up her trolley with promo wine.

      "Forget the colour of the foil.  Non, it's not price," she said.  "Look, cherie.  Just follow what everyone else is taking.  Look, see that one, there's a whole palette of it and no-one's bought a single bottle.  Must be rubbish.  But this Pixie Lou*** is great stuff.  Especially at this price.  That's why there's hardly any left on the shelf.  See?"

      I saw.  I bought.  I got Gold Stars.  So next week when this year's veng promo starts, I'll be there on the second day, confidently and efficiently re-stocking my cellar with supermarket promos, and not a squeaky tooth in sight.

      Just don't tell the SP how I do it.    

* Vin fin!

** La daube (beef, red wine, carrots and black olives)

*** Pic St Loup



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