February 16, 2011

The Grape Escape: Wine from the South ... of France

If you think about French wine, you’re likely thinking of Burgundy or Bordeaux, the regions that produce the most historic, sought-after and typically expensive French wines.

If you’re a little more into wine, you’ll likely know about the wines of the Rhone Valley, Alsace, Champagne and the Loire Valley. Beyond that, for all but the most ardent wine geeks, France is pretty much terra incognita.

But it would be a shame to walk past exotic French bottles because they seem expensive and hard to understand; there’s plenty value and drinking pleasure to be had from some of France’s more obscure regions.

Take, for example, the bold wines from France’s deep south, the Mediterranean regions of Provence, Languedoc and Roussilon. More and more, wine enthusiasts are discovering the excellent wines from these regions. Better yet, in an age of rising prices for the more prestigious regions, the wines of France’s Southern Tier remain affordable, by and large, rarely exceeding $20 except for a few critically praised “name brands.”

Here’s a good one that I picked up recently at Old Town Wine and Spirits (1529 Bardstown Road, 451-8591, www.oldtownwine.com).

Château de Lascaux 2008 Coteaux du Languedoc ($16.99)

This is a very dark wine, almost blackish-purple in the glass. Black cherry and raspberry aromas add a hint of wet stone that carries over as a mineral note in a tart, freshly acidic black-fruit flavor. Good fruit and luscious acidity, well balanced by tannins, come together in a sturdy, food-friendly structure. It’s a blend of 60-percent Syrah, 30-percent Grenache and 10-percent Mourvèdre. Fine with red meat, roast chicken or cheese; it went nicely with an Italian-American pasta sauce made with fresh tomatoes and ground bison.