François Chandou: Good wine for $15, no more than $150

I didn’t have the space to include all of the interesting tidbits and advice from my interview with François Chandou and his wife, Anne, in the October Advocate CliffDweller. Last year, the couple celebrated 30 years in the wine business with La Cave, so they know a thing or two about wine. (Plus, if you read the article, you’ll see that François Chandou has a degree in oenology, and graduated from the University of Bordeaux.)

François and Anne repeatedly told me that anyone can drink a good bottle of wine for $10 to $15. I wasn’t too surprised at this, since I regularly read Jeff Siegel’s monthly wine column and Wednesday wine blog posts, but the Chandous also noted that the good bottles of $10 to $15 wine are priced more around the $50 range in restaurants.

I was more interested to hear that, even for people with palates much more distinguished than mine, no one should spend more than $150 for a bottle of wine.
"I would like to say there is not a bottle of wine worth more than $100, maybe $150 because of the weak dollar," François says. "What I mean to say is that if you buy a wine strictly for the quality of what’s inside the bottle, whatever price is above that is marketing. You can buy two pieces of clothing, one at Neiman Marcus and one at Target, and the Neiman Marcus will have been better targeted to a different customer, but in a nutshell, it’s not required to spend a ton of money to enjoy a nice glass of wine."

This rule doesn’t apply to collector wines, they told me, just to people who are interested in drinking a wine rather than it sitting on a shelf. Every La Cave customer (the Chandous have roughly 1,200) is asked about their flavor profile, their taste profile, and a price range. The Chandous use those three things to try to match their customers with wine, and usually will limit the sale to a single bottle before selling someone a case.

"People come to me and I tell them about the wine, and they say, I’ll take six bottles of this," François says, "and I say, Do me a favor — buy one bottle now. "Here I am the merchant, and I’m telling them not to buy six bottles — that doesn’t make much sense."

But this goes back to his philosphy of making a loyal customer rather than making a sale, and the entire reason why he introduced the wine-by-the-glass concept in the Southwest — so that people could try before they buy.

And whatever you do, Anne says, "don’t come in with the Spectator under your arm and say, ‘I have to have this 90-rated wine.’ Why do you want to spend x amount of dollars for something you don’t know you like?"


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