We’ve noted before that one of the best importers of such wines is local, Fran Kysela of Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd out of Winchester, VA, whose wines are sprinkled all over our Top 5 Value Wines lists. A perennial favorite among our Top 5 French Red Wine Values is a Kysela wine from the Castelmaure cooperative in Corbières, a district within the larger Languedoc region that produces an ocean of both red and white wine values. Both the $9 Castelmaure Col des Vents Corbières, and its richer, pricier big brother Castelmaure Grand Cuvèe at $15 a bottle, are great values.
We tasted (and bought) an even pricier Castelmaure bottle, the 2008 Pompadour, for $17 at The Bottle Shop in Rockville last week that underscored out enthusiasm both for the Castelmaure co-op and the wines of Corbières. The region was only granted status as its own distinct winemaking district – known as an AOC, short for “appellation d'origine controlee” under French wine regulations – in 1985.
The Rhône-style red blend made from 50 percent carignan, 30 percent syrah and 20 percent grenache – a blend almost identical to the $9 Col des Vents – is a bit expensive for everyday drinking, but especially at its more typical price of about $15 a bottle ($14.99 at Calvert Wine and Spirits in the Hunt Valley Towne Centre, for example), it’s a worthwhile splurge.
As we noted in February, Domaine Sainte-Eugenie Corbieres Rouge nearly made the cut for our Top 5 French Red Wine Values list, but didn’t quite have the necessary track record of solid reviews from the critics in consecutive vintages. Our sampling of the 2010s for both the regular Corbieres Rouge ($9 a bottle at Montgomery County Liquor stores) and the slightly more expensive La Réserve ($13) gave every indication that it’s just a matter of time before Domaine Sainte-Eugenie demonstrates the type of consistency we look for in a Top 5 Value.
“This crisp red features red berry and cherry flavors that are accented by slate notes,” wrote Kim Marcus of Wine Spectator, awarding the Domaine Sainte-Eugenie Corbières 85 points. “White pepper accents mark the finish.”
Marcus liked the La Réserve at $18 a bottle, but it's just $12.99 at MacArthur Beverages in the District and just $13.05 a bottle in Montgomery County. When we tasted these rich reds in August, it didn’t seem the right time of year to recommend them, in midst of one of the hottest summers on record in and around Washington. (We did taste one white as part of the “Tour de Languedoc” – the newest vintage of a perpetual favorite, Picpoul de Pinet Cave de Pomerols, which tops ourTop 5 French White Wine Values list. But its crisp refreshingness just didn’t seem newsworthy.)
Now is a good time to start squirrelling away a few bottles of these tasty and affordable wines from Corbières for the Autumn chill that is beginning to show up this time of year.
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