There are a handful of wines that have come out of France in the past few years that have unpretentious names, cheerful all-English labels, and require no knowledge of obscure AOCs. Things like Fat Bastard, Red Bicyclette, and a newer entry on local shelves, the 2006 Barton & Guestier Bistro Wine Pinot Noir. Languedoc-Roussillon, $8. I've had bad luck with bargain Pinot, but I heard good things about this and decided to give it a shot. It's from the South of France, meaning it's nowhere near as smooth and refined as those Pinots from up in Burgundy. It had an overall flavor of strawberry jam with a firm acidity and a slight sparkling feel on the tongue. Sounds odd but it worked out fairly well, and served as a good uncomplicated lunch wine.
Is it a sacrilege to take a casual, fun approach to French wine? I don't think so. Joseph Ducreux (1735-1802) certainly didn't take French painting too seriously, as can be seen from his hilarious self portraits.
Hell, even ze Germans are getting into the act with wines like Eins, Zwei, Dry. As I've said before, I took German in high school and can carry on a basic conversation auf Deutsch, but even I'm occasionally intimidated by a novel's worth of Fraktur text that boils down to "Semi-dry Riesling from 2007".
Want to try some other affordable and fun French wines? Look beyond Bordeaux and Burgundy and try some from Loire, Provence, and Alsace. Names and availability are going to vary wildly around the US, so ask your friendly neighborhood wine shop employee for help. When that hard-to-pronounce French label looks scary, just picture Ducreux's sly grin.
Public domain photo of painting courtesy of Wikipedia.