Most Improved Wine County

Canada would qualify but I want to talk about somewhere that’s a much bigger player. And which once ruled the wine world. Naturally it’s FRANCE.

France has always operated a two tier system with its wines. Really good expensive stuff and not very reliable everyday wines. The fancy stuff created the reputation, which helped sell the rubbish  wines. In the 1980s and 90s the low priced French wines really declined in quality and millions of people stopped buying.

Another reason for not buying French was the arrival of delicious, inexpensive wines from other places such as California and Australia. But guess what, another cycle is unfolding – everyday French wine is much improved as producers struggle for survival. And they’re cutting prices in hope of winning back customers. Good quality at low prices. How can you resist.

Before you dash off to the store let’s make sure you understand French wine. It’s more reserved – less flashy than your favourite Aussie, and it offers ‘character’ as opposed to gushy niceness. But maybe you’re tired of nice wines?

Check out these examples of the new improved France.

1. BRINGING BACK the OLD RULE
Before Australia monopolized the wine world these was a golden rule for novice drinkers, ‘you cannot go wrong with Cotes du Rhone’. The reason being this wine is friendly, has great drinkability, and is affordable. Every restaurant used to carry it, and it matched well with white or red meat. I’d like to bring back the rule because it’s even more true today. The quality and value has never been better.

LIGHT STYLE RHÔNES
Mommessin 07 Côtes du Rhône ‘Les Epices’, France 14829 $11.20
Louis Bernard 07 Côtes du Rhône, France 581645 $11.85

SEMI–RICH STYLE RHONES
Louis Bernard 06 Côtes du Rhone-Villages, France 391458 $12.95
Cave La Romaine 06 Côtes du Rhône-Villages, France 28779 $12.65

2. MORE on THE RHÔNE – DON’T SELL THE FARM, BUY IT
Cotes du Luberon and Ventoux are part of the Rhone region and the current vintages of the ‘old farm’ brand are the best yet. Both have lots of personality and great drinkability. Versatile wines for any occasion. Handy screwcap and nice price. What more can I say.
LA VIEILLE FERME 08 WHITE, Côtes du Luberon, France 298505 $11.65
LA VIEILLE FERME 07 RED, Cvtes du Ventoux, France 263640 $11.55

3. MORE on THE RHONE – LOOK FOR LOUIS’ WHITE TOO
Louis Bernard’s Rhone reds are recommended above but the winery also makes a white Cotes du Rhone which is in the style of a non-oaked Chardonnay. Fresh, fruity and very gulpable. A little Viognier in the blend adds some peachy yumminess. Could be the best $10 white in the world. Handy screwcap here too.
LOUIS BERNARD 07 Côtes du Rhône Blanc, France 589432 $10.75

4. MORE on THE RHONE – GREEN RABBIT

The rabbits are breeding and now we have an organic bunny. And it’s the best Rabbit yet. Lots of rustic French country character. Not one of those dolled-up Merlots.
GREEN RABBIT 07 Merlot, VDP des Bouches du Rhone, France 87379 $13.75 Litre Tetra

5. BETTER BORDEAUX
Bordeaux reds used to dominate the world of premium wine but most people now shop elsewhere when they want a fancy Merlot/Cabernet blend. But may I suggest you explore the only twenty-dollar Bordeaux offered by the Board. Ch. Pey La Tour (Vintages Essentials) is impressive without being too serious. Which is a good rule for all dinner party wines. It’s produced mainly from Merlot grapes.
CH. PEY La TOUR 05 Bordeaux, France 925859 $22.95

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