TN: Two Bargain Reds from the South of France

For some unfathomable reason, French wine is not fashionable these days. There‚€™s talk of a crise
in the French wine industry, of wines from Spain, South America,
Australia and even California outpacing the French for quality and
value. Yet when it comes to affordable wines at good quality levels,
I‚€™ll put my money on the south of France anytime. I‚€™ll admit I‚€™m
biased ‚€“ my favorite grapes are Grenache and Syrah, the region‚€™s
mainstays. But these grapes make delicious wines at modest prices.
Besides, when you consider they make more than 1 billion bottles a year
in the Vin de Pays d’Oc, you gotta figure some of them will be good! And
just to show that the French aren‚€™t as hidebound to tradition as we
accuse them of being, there are other wines coming from there that show
good promise, too.
Case in point: Labour√©-Roi 2003 Pinot Noir ‚€“ Reserve, ‚€œLes Sangliers,‚€ Vin de Pays de l‚€™Aude ($10).
This wine offers true Pinot Noir character at a bargain price. And
French Pinot Noir character ‚€“ not the jammy fruit of inexpensive New
World models. This wine is stronger on the aromatics ‚€“ black cherry,
some meaty sauvage notes, and a tad lean on the palate. But there is
good fruit and balance here, with food-friendly acidity. This is a darn
sight better than most Bourgogne Rouge I‚€™ve tasted at $15 and above.
More traditional: Jean-Luc Colombo 2003 Syrah ‚€œLa Violette,‚€ Vin de Pays d‚€™Oc, ($11).
The nose of this well-balanced and tightly structured Syrah lives up to
its name, with hints of violets and lavender overlaying bright berry
fruit. The tannins are not overpowering but will help this wine mellow
over 2-3 years. Excellent value.
(Both wines are imported by Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Florida.)

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