Not that there’s anything wrong with that (apologies to "Seinfeld"). Jess Jackson, of Kendall-Jackson fame, died a few months back incredibly rich because he recognized back in the early 1980s that Americans would drink more wine if it had more sweet fruit and less European funk. (Read The Wine Curmudgeon’s insightful tribute to Jess Jackson for more on the creator of one of the most popular wines in the country, Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve.)
But that little extra sweetness can be a bit much for sipping in Washington’s July and August heat and humidity. Crisper, more refreshing whites tend to pair better with the summer swelter. France is one of our favorite sources of dry white wines, and Domaine de Coussergues is one of the most reliable producers of inexpensive whites that have the fruit Americans like and the crispness Washingtonians need.
The estate, founded in 1495 by a land grant from Charles VIII, is in the Languedoc region of southern France, one of the best sources of good, inexpensive wine. The owner, Baron Arnould de Bertier, is said to be the 15th generation of the family to run the estate. Domaine de Coussergues grows a variety red and white wine grapes, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier, and makes a varietal (meaning single grape type is used or is dominant) of each. But the most widely available white around here is the chardonnay-viognier blend.
A 50-50 blend of the two grapes, the 2010 Domaine de Coussergues Chardonnay-Viognier earned 87 points from Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate, who characterized it as “slightly lighter, crisp, fresh, medium-bodied,” compared to the other white varietals from Domaine de Coussergues. Though he didn’t think it had “the personality of the three 100% varietal wines,” he nonetheless included it in his recommendation for “readers looking for inexpensive, fruit-driven, crisp, lively wines.”
Bob Chamberlin in the Los Angeles Times praised the 2009 Domaine de Coussergues Chardonnay-Viognier, which you may find in some wine shops like Unwined Online in Alexandria. “Good inexpensive white wines are the toughest to find. And this one has none of the headache-making sweetness that mars so many cheap whites,” he wrote in his April 12 column.
“Domaine de Coussergues' Chardonnay-Viognier is lean and focused with a pleasant aftertaste and an aromatic lift from the Viognier. It's a great party wine for the price.
“Serve it with salty nuts, olives, tapenade, shrimp toast, pad Thai or other spicy food,” he added.
Either vintage should cost about $10 a bottle, as it does at Unwined Online, Cleveland Park Wines on Connecticut Ave., NW, Chain Bridge Cellars (formerly Cecile’s) in McLean or The Wine Cabinet in Reston. You might also find some of the varietal wines – well worth a try – like the sauvignon blanc ($9.99) at Connecticut Ave. Magruder’s, which has the chardonnay-viognier blend for only $8.99 a bottle. But in rarity greater than a non-sweet $10 white, the best price in the area is in Maryland, where Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore has it on sale for $7.99 (regularly $9.99). It’s also available at The Bottle Shop in Rockville and elsewhere for a still-reasonable $11 a bottle.
Compare prices and find Coussergues wines online or at a store near you nationwide.
This widely available bargain is consistently good year in and year out, which is why it and its siblings are likely to make the forthcoming Wine for the Rest of Us list of Top 5 French Whites (stay tuned). Pickup a bottle this weekend so you can tell your friends this was your go-to summer white wine before it became fashionable.
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