Provence on a Budget
I know that from my experience in Canada and Britain, If I were to buy wine in a box, I would feel an acute sense of shame. That is not the case in France (well, at least in the countryside in Provence…) Not only have we bought lots of boxed wine here, we’ve bought lots of bidon wine.
Bidon wine (as we call it), or vin en vrac, is the wine that you buy from your local wine cooperative or even some vineyards where you fill up either a 5 litre or 10-litre plastic jug with what is essentially a gas pump. Yes. You thought a bag-in-box was bad? Ha!
Most villages or areas in Provence have their own wine cooperatives. There is a belief that these cooperatives are given the ‘leftover’ grapes and then make a wine from the mix of those. However, wine cooperatives not only make their own wine with grapes from local producers who may not have the resources to make their own, but they also bottle wines for respected domains and chateaux.
Back to that gas pump… You can get 5 litres of wine (most often rosé here in Provence) and pay anywhere from 7 to 15 euros. More often than not, it costs about 10 euros. You will often have the choice of different grades of wine. These will be either considered vin de table or AOC status according to the way in which it was made.
Delicious and Cheap
Is it any good? Other than the fact that for most Anglo-Saxons it’s so cheap it has to be wonderful… I can guarantee you that in general, it will be better than the cheapest rosé you buy at your grocery store (if you don’t live in France that is). Certain cooperatives, just like any vineyard, produce better vin en vrac than others. We’ve tried the cooperative vin en vrac from: Bonnieux, Lambesc, Rognes, Bedoin, Noves, as well as from a few different vineyards. We’ve found the best coop vin en vrac we’ve tried is AOC Coteaux d’Aix from Lambesc and AOC Cotes de Ventoux from Bedoin.
Cooperative vinicoles are often large, low buildings on the outskirts of villages. Next time you find one, ask for a bidon and point to whichever wine you’d like. You’ll have to pay about 2,50 for the reusable bidon container. Someone will fill it up for you. If you go often enough, you’ll be shown how to fill it up yourself. You’ll then feel like a bonafide local as you get a nod of approval from the paysans.