Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Provence - the Best $10 Red Wines?

I think that the sweet spot for red wine these days is in the $20 - $30 range (in NYC retail prices, anyway) There are all sorts of beautiful wines in that price range. There are excellent wines at the $15-$20 mark also, but they are harder to come by. Great $10 reds...not so easy, in my book. But I found two of them recently, and they're both from Provence. Is Provence quietly putting out the best $10 red wines?

Provence is such a misunderstood wine region. People seem to think of it as the armpit of French wine regions. Why does it get so little respect among wine lovers? Bandol is well known as the home of some of the world's greatest rosé wines. But it is also, and perhaps more quietly, the home of the unique Mourvèdre-based red wines that offer a stunning blend of silky texture with raw, tannic, and animale-infused fruit. These red wines age beautifully, they go great with a wide array of foods, and the top examples, with only one or two exceptions, will not run you more than $50.

From my rather limited experience, quality does tend to take a noticeable step down outside of Bandol, and perhaps this is the reason that Provence as a region does not get a lot of respect. There are, of course, great producers making great wines from other areas in Provence, and their entry-level bottles can offer truly fantastic value. These wines are not as easy to find as some other $10 reds, but they are of such high quality that they are worth seeking out and buying by the case. These are big Provence red wines, full of meaty fruit and lavender, and they are perfect with summer grilling. They're perfect with winter stews too, but why wait until winter? Here are two such wines:

2007 Commanderie de Peyrassol La Croix Vin de Pays de Méditerraneé, $11, Rosenthal Imports. I love this wine! An approximately equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from the great producer in Var in the Côtes de Provence. A reasonable 13.5% alcohol. It's all funk at first but that blows off quickly, and then the nose is rich and dense with dark tarry fruit. With an hour open the Syrah blossoms and the nose shows a distinct animale side, full of pheromones. The palate is lively and balanced even though the fruit is rich and dense, and the finish is fragrant with dark fruit, lavender, and tar. An absolutely lovely wine that works well above its pay-grade.

2006 Château Jean-Pierre Gaussen Vin de Pays du Mont Caume, $10, Moonlight Wines Imports. Gaussen is an old-school producer in Bandol and this is his "baby Bandol." Red wine must contain a minimum of 50% Mourvèdre to be labeled Bandol, and this wine has about 35% Mourvèdre (the blend changes with each vintage and really, it's a mystery). There is about 35% Grenache, some Syrah, probably some Cabernet Sauvignon, and perhaps some Cinsault. This wine really improves with a bit of air - I recommend opening it a half hour or so before serving. Then the nose shows youthful and fresh strawberry fruit, some cocoa, and a bit of alcohol (13% - even less than the Peyrassol) that integrates as the wine aerates further. The palate is well balanced, with good acidity and a gamy note that infuses the fruit - really delicious and such an interesting and complex wine at this price. This is big wine, very muscular, but with a gentle side. Like a longshoreman who plays the violin.


Timothy Lock said...

where are you getting the Peyrassol in NYC? i've only seen the Rose, and winesearcher doesn't list anything in the city for this wine.

very interested, as i'm picking wines for my wedding and everything has to be less than 10 bucks per bottle (post case discount) -- except for the bottles set aside for me that is!

Brooklynguy said...

hey Timothy - i got the Peyrassol at Astor. They're out now. I would call the folks at Rosenthal and ask them for the other retail stores that bought the wine. Congrats on getting married!

Unknown said...

Hi Timothy,

I'm the assistant wine buyer at Astor- we'll be re-obtaining Peyrassol as soon as we can but, unfortunately, it's gone with Rosenthal for at least another month. If, by chance, you haven't had the Rosé from Peyrassol, you should try it... one of the absolute best...

Marcus said...

Bguy... Great to get back to reading this. Been on vacation and a vacation from wine for a while, but there's a Provence promotion across Quebec right now and I too have just discovered some sweet spot wines at $10, or $15 here (CDN $ incl. tax). Some names for you (don't know if they're distributed there...)
1. Estérelle Ch de Rouet Cotes de Provence 2007 (both red and white blends are refreshing and full of personality though lighter than your reviewed wines)
Les Félibres Cotes de Provence 2007 (great value)
Dom St-Andre Figuiere Cotes de Provence 2006 (more in the usual sweet spot price at $26 CDN but these are vieilles vignes and you can really tell... an opulent dinner wine)
I think these are all typical Midi grapes - no Cabernet in the mix.
Which reminds me, what kind of Corsican wine do you get access to? There's some interesting stuff just off the coast...