Many wine lovers feared that A Good Year, the recent film starring Russell Crowe and based on Peter Mayle's book about living at a vineyard in Provence, would cause a surge in demand for wines from that region. They can relax: The movie bombed, so there still are plenty of great deals on wines known as C?tes du Rh?ne or C?tes du Rh?ne-Villages. These are usually blends of grenache, syrah, and mourv?dre grapes.
Here are some domaines that make fine red C?tes du Rh?nes selling for less than $25 a bottle. The vintage of choice is 2005, followed by 2004. All should be enjoyed in their first three to six years of release.
This superstar estate run by the highly talented Daniel Boulle produces a number of C?tes du Rh?ne cuv?es that are serious, filled with character, and sell for a song. Imported by Weygandt-Metzler (610 486-0800).
Domaine du Caillou
Known for its exquisite Ch?teauneuf-du-Pape, which sells for $75 to $100 a bottle, Domaine du Caillou also produces bargain-priced C?tes du Rh?ne, Reserve C?tes du Rh?ne-Villages, and C?tes du Rh?ne-Villages Tr?s Vieilles Vignes that taste like most others' Ch?teauneuf-du-Pape. The 2005s are beauties. Caillou's wines are available through various American importers, including Michael Skurnik (516 677-9300) and Diamond Wine Merchants (510 567-9887).
Adjacent to the C?tes du Rh?ne is the sun-swept C?tes du Ventoux appellation, and Fondr?che is its top property. There, Sebastien Vincenti, one of France's finest young winemakers, produces a bevy of grenache and syrah-based gems. Fondr?che is also a good source for terrific whites. Imported by Robert Kacher Selections (202 832-9083).
This tiny artisanal producer is well-known among insiders for its old-style yet glorious Ch?teauneuf-du-Pape. Its seductive C?tes du Rh?ne Le Poutet is a food-friendly effort that pleases the senses, the intellect, and the pocketbook. Imported by Weygandt-Metzler (610 486-0800).
This superb domaine is renowned the world over for single-vineyard C?te R?ties, Hermitages, and Condrieus. By volume produced, Guigal's biggest wine is the C?tes du Rh?ne. It's usually a blend of equal parts syrah and grenache, with a touch of mourv?dre. This offering is always delicious and a great bargain. Imported by Ex Cellars Wine Agencies (805 686-9153).
Patrick Lesec Selections
Lesec, a n?gociant working in southern France, selects top wines from some of the region's better cooperatives and bottles them under such names as Marquis, P?rrili?re, and Peradon. Imported by Chemin des Vins (508 545-1532).
For more on the domaines producing great C?tes du Rh?ne wines, go to businessweek.com/extras.
Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit www.eRobertParker.com to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.
By Robert Parker