If you were to buy a plane ticket, rent a tiny Peugeot and spend a few weeks exploring the wine routes of France, you'd invariably stumble across more impossible-to-relocate bottles than you could fit in your suitcase to bring home.
But if you were David Lillie, co-owner of celebrated Tribeca retailer Chambers Street Wines, a suitcase wouldn't stop you. A longstanding champion of natural and organic wines from France, Lillie and partner Jamie Wolff import bottles directly from a handful of their favorite off-the-radar estates abroad.
Not only are these handpicked rarities unavailable anywhere else outside of France, but by eliminating the middleman Chambers can also offer them at prices that make the dollar look strong again.
Here are three hidden French gems that we're now lucky enough to find right here in New York--no awkward pat downs or customs inspections required:
2007 Pierre Frick Alsace Pinot Blanc Precieuses ($17) An astonishingly lush-yet-minerally white from Alsace, this organic Pinot Blanc brims with pear and almond flavors and delivers just enough sweetness to make it pair well with spicy Asian dishes.
2010 Christian Ducroux Beaujolais-Villages Prologue Sans Soufre ($14) This bottle is a far cry from the bland Beaujolais Nouveau that floods NYC wine shops every fall. Low in alcohol, delicately structured and bottled without any added sulfites, it's like guzzling a glass of freshly pressed raspberries.
2009 Pierre Gonon Vin de Pays de l'Ardèche Les Iles Feray ($17) Full of violets, blackberry and smoke, this northern Rhône Syrah is an essential part of your winter survival kit, perfect with braised meats and other hearty, artery-clogging fare.
Chambers Street Wines, 148 Chambers St. (between Greenwich St. and West Broadway); 212-227-1434 or chambersstwines.com