The Perfect Red

by Stan Bliden

It’s august, time to pack the Citroën and head to the South of France. Wait a minute, this is Baltimore, I’m packing the SUV and heading "downy ocean, hon."

Packed securely with the beach umbrella and my Tilley hat, is a case of assorted wines. In that case there are some delicious summer whites, like Sancerre and German Riesling but multiple bottles of what I consider the best everyday reds are included. Which reds you ask? It is not just a beach wine, it works for camping, backyard grilling, pizza night, beef stew night, party night and dead of winter I want something satisfying and under 15 bucks. My 23 year old son considers it the perfect out-to-dinner with a date wine. For under $15 you get a wine with a bouquet that is lightly fruity with hints of pepper, spice and earth. The palate is medium bodied and dry, very light on tannins yet not a fruit bomb. There is some acidity but not mouth-puckering, and the alcohol is only about 12-14%. In an exceptional vintage like 2007 the wines are even age-worthy, but I have a hard time saving these beauties. They are so delicious in their youth that before you know it they’re gone. Even for a wine geek like me there is enough complexity to keep me coming back for more. Have you guessed the wine? I hope you chose Côtes du Rhône (CDR).

The Rhône Valley of France is split into two distinct regions. The Northern Rhône where the vines are grown predominately on hillsides with the sole red grape variety being Syrah and the Southern Rhône where the landscape is flatter but the soil, if you can call it that, is full of smooth large stones. The most important grape is Grenache of which a Côtes du Rhône must be at least 40%, supplemented by Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. The Southern Rhône is dominated by the Côtes du Rhône appellation encompassing some 100,000 acres. There are other appellations in the Southern Rhône, the most famous being Châteauneuf du Pape (CNP). These wines command a high price and are prized by collectors. There are actually 13 allowable red grape varieties in the Southern Rhône and one of the finest Châteauneufs, Château de Beaucastel, uses all 13 in their blend. Besides the abundance of sunshine there is a constant wind blowing, known as the Mistral. It blows warm during the day and cool at night greatly affecting vine and grape growth. The smooth round stones absorb the heat during the day and warm the vines at night combating the cool Mistral.

As I mentioned earlier the 2007 vintage was fantastic. If you are a collector you may want to load up on CNPs though they will be pricey. If you want an everyday great bang for the buck seek out one of the following wines. Although 98% of Côtes du Rhône are red, I have included a couple of whites which are not too shabby.

As always, In Vino Veritas...

Wine Recommendations


Les Trois Chemins CDR 2007 • $9.99

The bargain of the bunch. The style is a little lighter but still good. Great summer grilling red. 65% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre.

Perrin Reserve CDR 2007 • $10.99

From the Beaucastel people, as reliable as it gets, in a more earthy style–plenty of fruit to match. 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and Cinsault.

Domaine du Bois de Saint- Jean CDR 2007 • $12.99

Small production, super quality, dense and dark, packed with flavor. All grapes picked by hand. 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault.

Domaine de Givaudan CDR        2007 • $14.99

Another killer 2007, crushed berries and allspice full bodied and some tannins 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah.


Perrin Reserve CDR • $10.99

My wine of choice by the glass at Mezze peach and flowers, perfect with falafel.

Domaine Lafond Lirac 2007 • $16.99

Gorgeous refined and dry 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Rousanne and 20% Viognier.

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