EASTENDERS (110-112 rue Mollien, 62100 Calais). Open daily 8am-8pm.
Charisma in a cardigan and slippers, chainsmoking Dave West brings a spirit of enterprise to Calais that would not be out of place in a Mexican border town. He claims he is keeping the crime rate down by selling to customers who would otherwise 'be out on the streets mugging people'. He moves cheap beer and liebfraumilch in quantity. EastEnders is worth a visit for local colour, but it might surprise you with the odd bargain. Discounts on six or more bottles.
Best buys: 1993 Domaine de Maubet, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne, refreshingly grapefruity dry white, Fr18; 1993 Dry Creek Estate, Semillon Chardonnay, smoky oak and sunshine fruit sweetness, Fr25; 1991 Bourgogne Passetoutgrains, Eugene Brocard, appealing strawberryish blend of gamay and pinot noir, Fr25; 1989 Domaine de Paradis, Saint Amour, Marc Dudet, fine cru beaujolais, Fr41; 1990 Chateau Haut-Bertinerie, Premieres Cotes de Blaye, stylishly oaky, blackcurranty claret, Fr43; Champagne Lelarge- Ducrocq, good-value grower's champagne, Fr54.
MAMMOUTH (route de Boulogne, 62100, Calais). Open 9am-9pm Monday-Saturday (also open on Sunday before Christmas).
Mammouth seemed in danger of extinction by failing to adapt its range in time for the single-market invasion. But business has soared, particularly with its cheapest lines. Typically for a French hypermarket, the range is dominated by dullish appellation controlee wines, with a handful of vins de pays. Occasional rays of sunshine appear, such as the promotion last month of the 1989 Chateau Hanteillan at only Fr29. Plans are afoot to introduce 50 to 60 new wines to keep British customers in the Mammouth fold.
Best buys: 1993 Chateau du Coureau, Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc, a refreshing gooseberry-like dry white, Fr17.95; 1991 Riesling Alsace, Ernest Wein, Cave de Pfaffenheim, lemon- fresh and dry, Fr27.95; 1992 Chateau Saint-Saturnin, Coteaux du Languedoc, ripe, soft, Mediterranean fruit, Fr15.40; 1991 Savigny-les-Beaune, Vaucher, good fruity pinot noir, Fr46.50; 1989 Chateau Pontoise Cabarrus, Haut-Medoc, typical, richly concentrated, Fr45.
J SAINSBURY BIERES VINS ET SPIRITUEUX (Mammouth Centre, route de Boulogne, 62100 Calais). Open 9am- 8pm Monday-Saturday.
In the shopping mall inside Mammouth, Sainsbury's opened on 27 April this year with a limited range of own-label wines, beers and spirits. Prices are not much lower than in the UK. No sign of the French taking to Jacob's Creek yet, but if they do, appellation controlee may have to look to its laurels.
Best buys: Chais Baumiere Chardonnay, Fr23.50; Vin de Pays d'Oc, Fr13.90; 1993 Tasmania Company Chardonnay, Fr57; Fitou Fr17.90.
BAR A VINS (52 Place d'Armes, 62100 Calais). Open daily except Wednesdays 9am-8pm.
Once past the unprepossessing petrol- pump wine tanks and Luc Gille's bluff I- don't-suffer-fools-especially-English-ones exterior, you realise you are in the presence of a good quality French wine merchant. He dispenses wine in bulk, in addition to a range of about 250 French fine wines, most of which he buys himself. Unlike his competitors, he refuses to sell Piat d'Or and Mouton-Cadet. 'I'm a wine merchant,' he protests.
Best buys: 1993 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur lie, Cuvee des Lions, Serge Saupin, textbook, tangy, Fr32; 1993 Chateau de Villepreux, Bordeaux Rose, strawberry-like, dry, Fr39; 1992 Domaine Barreau-la-Grave, Premieres Cotes de Blaye, soft, cherry-fruity claret, Fr30; 1990 Chateau de Villepreux, Bordeaux Superieur, pronounced mocha oak and supple merlot fruit, Fr46; 1990 Chateau de Husson, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Granget, aromatic, spicy and intense, Fr82; Champagne Francois Heucq, Brut Reserve, Fleury la Riviere, a grower's champagne with fine, chocolatey fruit sweetness, Fr95.
PERARDEL WINE MARKET (Z A Marcel Doret, 62100 Calais). Open 8am-8pm daily.
Perardel's mini-hangar of fine wines in wooden bins gives it a fish-out-of-water feel in the cash-and-carry ethos of Calais. All the star French names are here all right, but is this what shoppers in Calais actually want? Maybe not, since the Chalons-sur-Marne family firm of Perardel, which has three other outlets in France, is starting to go the pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap route in order to compete. Perardel has an extensive range, with discounts on some boxes of six.
Best buys: 1993 Chateau Peyrat, Graves Blanc, J M Cambillau, zingy sauvignon-dominated white blend, Fr27; 1993 Macon-Solutre-Pouilly, Pascal Rollet, lemony, cinnamon- spice, full-bodied white burgundy, Fr29; 1992 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur lie, Domaine de la Muraille, Couillaud-Bruneliere, a rich, tangy classic, Fr25; 1991 Fitou, Selection des Vignerons, Mont Tauch, rustic, peppery Languedoc red, Fr25; 1989 Chateau La Rose Chevrol, Fronsac, savoury sweet merlot-based red bordeaux, Fr30; 1990 Chinon, Filliatreau, classic red Loire, Fr43. Also Bollinger at Fr135 and Pol Roger on promotion at Fr115.
WINE & BEER COMPANY (rue de Judee, Zone Marcel Doret, 62100 Calais). Open 7am-10pm all week.
Proudly describing itself as 'the best discount wine and beer warehouse in Calais', this is an off-shoot of the six Marco's warehouses in London, owned by Marco Attard. The atmosphere is as welcoming as the young staff are enthusiastic. With a selection of 400 wines from France and around the world, the company caters for the day-tripper. There is plenty of choice at prices that are pounds 1- pounds 2 a bottle cheaper than in the UK, and nothing, champagne apart, over pounds 10. As with most British wine merchants in France, payment can be made in sterling or francs; the price list is quoted in sterling. A good place to shop for weddings and parties.
Best buys: 1992 Santa Rita 120 Riesling, fresh, citrusy Chilean riesling, pounds 2.99; 1993 Richmond Grove Cowra Verdelho, tropical sweetness and smoky oak, pounds 4.99; 1993 Santa Rita Chardonnay Reserve, from Chile, fresh, grapefruity, with a touch of oak, pounds 3.90; 1991 Lindemans Bin 45, Cabernet Sauvignon, soft, vanilla-and- blackcurrant scented Australian red, pounds 2.77; 1992 Chateau Vincy, fine, young green-pepper claret, pounds 3.40; 1989 Senorio de Los Llanos Reserva, good- value, gamey Spanish red, pounds 2.79; 1990 Chateau La Rose Chevrol, Fronsac, supple merlot from an excellent vintage, pounds 4.02; 1990 Seaview Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut, toasty Australian fizz, pounds 5.98.
THE WINE SOCIETY (1 rue de la Paroisse, 62140 Hesdin). Open Monday-Saturday 8am-6pm (closed 12.30-1.45pm, Sundays and French public holidays).
The Wine Society corner shop stands discreetly opposite the cobbled main square of Hesdin, inland from Boulogne. After its first successful year here, this members- only co-operative has expanded its list to about 100 wines from around the world. Membership is not available at the shop: you must join in advance (tel 0438 740222; life membership pounds 20).
Best buys, priced by the case: The price list is in sterling although payment can also be made in francs. 1993 Domaine de Lahitte, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne, intensely flavoured and fruity, lively dry white, pounds 34; 1993 the Society's 1993 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, fresh, dry, appley, pounds 35.10; 1991 Wirra Wirra Chardonnay, rich and oaky yet elegant, from South Australia, pounds 87; 1992 Pouilly Fume, Bailly, dry, flinty Loire sauvignon blanc, pounds 71; 1990 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon, good-value blackcurranty Chilean red, pounds 43.30; the Society's 1990 Crozes-Hermitage, spicy, blackberryish Rhone red, pounds 58.10; 1990 Chianti Rufina, Villa di Vetrice, savoury, characterful chianti, pounds 35.50; the Society's Champagne Brut, a long-standing favourite from Alfred Gratien, pounds 161.
LE CHAIS (Quartier Brequerecque, rue des 2 Ponts, 62200 Boulogne). Open Tuesday-Friday,9am-midday/2.30- 7pm, Saturday 8.30-midday/2.30-6.30 (also at Calais and Le Touquet).
The closest the French come to Majestic is this cool, functional warehouse underneath the arches of Boulogne railway station. Wines are by the dozen (which can be mixed) or box of six, with an extra bottle thrown in for case purchases. The manager, Vincent Theret, buys mainly for French customers, hence lots of well- known names such as Jaboulet, Chapoutier and Louis Jadot. Plenty of good, single-domaine wines and growers' champagnes, too, and a cosy claret corner with tempting-looking wooden boxes of illustrious chateau names.
Best buys: 1992 Touraine Blanc, Oisly et Thesee, Cuvee des Gourmets, nettley sauvignon blanc, Fr26.90; 1992 Macon-Villages, Domaine Mathias, Chaintre, appealing unoaked, peachy chardonnay from southern Burgundy, Fr29.80; 1992 Touraine Rouge, Cuvee des Gourmets, Oisly et Thesee, juicy, peppery Loire blend of gamay and cabernet franc, Fr16.80; 1992 Cotes du Rhone, Parallele 45, Jaboulet, fine blackberryish syrah fruit, Fr26.50; 1990 L'Oustau Fauquet, Gigondas, Roger Combe, superb spicy Rhone village red, Fr48; Champagne Veuve Maurice Lepitre Brut 1er cru, good, malty, grower's champagne, Fr82.
AUCHAN (route Nationale 42, direction St Omer, 62200 Saint Martin, Boulogne, Boulogne-sur-Mer). Open Monday-Friday 8.30am-10pm, Saturday 8am-10pm.
The Boulogne Auchan, on the outskirts of town on the road to St Omer, is possibly the best of the cross-Channel French hypermarkets for wine. It is still very much geared to French tastes and British pockets, but with Sainsbury's and soon Tesco entering the fray, Auchan is planning to expand its range to include southern French varietals, eastern European and new-world wines. Best time for claret lovers to shop at Auchan is during the Foire aux Vins in October, when customers will be able to taste 15 to 20 different bordeaux and pick up clarets at promotional prices.
Best buys: 1992 Pouilly-Fume, Les Champs de Gri, Albert Grebet, affordable, crisp, grassy Loire sauvignon blanc, Fr39.95; 1993 Domaine Pont du Roi, Tavel, Les Caves Saint-Pierre, full-bodied, dry, blackcurranty rose, Fr32.50; 1992 Versant Royal, Bordeaux Superieur, fleshy, merlot-dominated claret, Fr19.25; 1993 Chateau de Bastet, Cotes du Rhone, good-value winter warmer, Fr16.75; 1992 Chateau des Mazes, cheap and chunky Mediterranean red, Fr11.95; 1990 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Porte du Roy, delicious, ripe and spice-laden, Fr36; 1992 Chateauneuf du Pape, Chateau Saint-Andre, heady and flavour- packed, Fr47.50.
THE GRAPE SHOP (85-86 rue Victor Hugo, 62200 Boulogne and Gare Maritime, 62200 Boulogne). Victor Hugo shop open Monday-Friday 10am- 7.30pm; Gare Maritime shop open 8.30am-9.30pm daily.
Martin Brown's Grape Shop has done so well in its cramped premises in rue Victor Hugo that it has recently opened a cash- and-carry style operation in the port, where the Seacat docks. Managed by Katrina Thom, the well-stocked Portakabin is packed with eclectic goodies. Two-thirds of the 750 or so lines are French, many from individual growers, the rest from around the world. Mr Brown, who has made a conscious choice 'to attack the Oddbins/ABC1 end of the market, rather than go the cash-and-carry route', specialises in single-estate wines and growers' champagnes. Worth a detour.
Best buys: 1993 Chateau de Briace Muscadet tire sur lie, rich, appley, mouthwatering, Fr26; 1993 Chateau Tour des Gendres, Bergerac Blanc, grassy, intense white graves look- alike, Fr24; 1993 Cotes du Rhone, Guigal, excellent, Viognier-scented dry white, Fr33; 1992 Macon-Villages, Raphael Sallet, super-ripe, honeyed white burgundy, Fr35; 1993 Macon Fuisse, Le Moulin du Pont, vibrant, grapefruity village macon, Fr36; 1992 Bourgogne Chardonnay, Mestre- Michelot, toasty, spicy oak, fresh citrus fruit, and great depth of flavour, Fr49; 1992 Pouilly Fume, Jean-Claude Chatelain, concentrated, classic stuff, Fr54; 1990 Chablis, Domaine Etienne Defaix, buttery richness and elegance combined, Fr59; 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays d'Oc, supple blackcurrant cabernet sauvignon from Hugh Ryman, Fr22; 1992 St Amour, Domaine des Duc, voluptuous cru beaujolais, Fr46; 1989 Chateau Roland Maillet, St Emilion Grand Cru, stylish, oaky claret, Fr66; 1990 Vacqueyras, Delas Freres, ripe, oaky red with the spice of Provence, Fr36; Cremant de Bourgogne, Henri Naudin Ferrand, toasty, champagne- like fizz from Burgundy, Fr48; Michel Genet Blanc de Blancs Brut, Chouilly, chardonnay fizz with an alluring bouquet and considerable finesse, Fr98; Vilmart et Cie Grande Reserve, traditional, complex, powerful fizz, Fr116.
MAISON DU VIN (71 avenue Carnot, 50100 Cherbourg). Open 9am-7pm Monday-Saturday. Sunday 11am-6pm (but may vary).
Master of Wine Richard Harvey opened La Maison du Vin on 1 June 1993. Just five minutes from the port, it is popular with tourists and Cowes sailors, who splice the mainbrace with anything from 'cockpit wines' to classy claret, burgundy and champagne from a 130-strong wine list. About 75 per cent are French, with a handful of new world wines. Prices are often excellent.
Best buys: 1993 Domaine de Lacquy, Vin de Pays des Terroirs Landais, zesty southern dry white, Fr18; 1993 Domaine du Vieux Chai, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur lie, genuine fresh spritz and concentrated fruit, Fr25; 1992 Chateau Richard, Bergerac Sec, Cuvee Speciale, ripe, honeyed bordeaux-style blend, Fr24; 1993 Lirac, Domaine Duseigneur, Cru Race, unusual southern Rhone blend of mainly bourboulenc and clairette, Fr35; 1993 Chardonnay, James Herrick, Vin de Pays d'Oc, more elegant than the 1992 with deft oak handling and a lime-like streak of acidity, Fr32; 1992 Chablis, Jean-Paul Droin, wonderfully vibrant fruit and elegant acidity, Fr49; 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Domaine de la Ferrandiere Vin de Pays d'Oc, affordable grassy cabernet sauvignon, Fr15; 1990 Domaine de Ribonnet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays du Comte Tolosan, modern, blackcurranty new world-influenced red, Fr25; 1990 Chateau Grand Moulin, Haut Medoc, classic claret, Fr39; Alexandre Bonnet Brut Champagne, Cuvee Prestige Brut, elegance, fine mousse and savoury fruitiness, Fr79.
Guidelines for travellers bringing back alcohol from France or other EU countries: beer, 110 litres; wine, 90 litres (of which 60 may be sparkling); fortified wine, 20 litres; spirits, 10 litres. Bring back more, and the onus is on you to prove that it is for personal use only.
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