Rich and Red French Wines

These great red French wines are coveted and affordable

The wines of Châteaneuf-du-Pape are the last of the great French red wines that are still somewhat affordable (the great crus of Burgundy and Bordeaux priced themselves out of reach decades ago). Originating in the southern Rhone region of France, Châteauneuf du Pape got its name in the early fourteenth century when the region was the temporary home of the Papacy.   

Grenache is the major grape, although it is almost always buttressed with Syrah and Mourvedre, as well as up to ten minor grapes. For a bottle to be labeled Châteauneuf du Pape, growers must follow exacting standards. The results are deeply colored, aggressive wines with bold flavors of plum, earth and smoke. Madison importers have provided us with some real gems, and the following are some of my favorites.  

Lucien Barrot
2007, $40
An earthy style, this shows a texture similar to Pinot Noir but with very different flavors of herbs de provence, anise and stewed fruit. Very French in style, it’s particularly delicious with stews and braised meats.          

Mayard (Domaine du Pere Pape) “Clos du Calvaire”
2009, $33
Fermented and aged in cement, this shows deep plum flavors intermingled with notes of espresso and earth. An elegant style, this goes well with rich fish dishes featuring olives and meat elements. 

Domaine de la Janasse 
2009, $60
Brooding aromas of sweet leather and framboise echo on the palate with abundant spice and black-hole-like density.

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested. Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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