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A Delightful Proven?al Red

A blend of two vintages, Ch?teau de Roquefort Gueule de Loup is a surprisingly satisfying and affordable summer red wine

In terms of wine, France's Provence region is best known for its rapidly improving ros? wines. For years the majority of these wines were indifferently made and consumed with equal indifference by the hordes of summer visitors who flock to its charming villages and sparkling coastline. Today, however, modern winemaking techniques and growing demand have resulted in an overall improvement in quality for ros?s, earning them both more respect in the winemaking world as well as higher prices. What has attracted less attention is that the region's red wines have undergone a similar transformation, and one of my favorites is this week's offering, the Ch?teau de Roquefort Gueule de Loup ($16). The unusual thing about this wine, other than its fanciful name??hich is a French name for snapdragons??s that it has no vintage designation. This is almost unheard of outside the rarefied world of champagne, and here's the producer's explanation: In the celebrity-free part of Provence, a few kilometers east of Marseilles and not far from Bandol, "winemaker Raimond de Villeneuve decided to create a distinctive new wine by blending two vintages, 2007 and 2008. The result of this balancing act is greater than the sum of its parts: a charming new cuv??e that deliver immediate fresh fruit pleasure from Provence." Yes, I was skeptical, too, but the blending of the two vintages really does work and results in a wine of both depth and complexity. Perhaps this is making a virtue out of a necessity??ut it is an admirable virtue nonetheless. The wine has a glorious deep garnet color, and it's rare to find such freshness, focus, structure, and vivacious personality at such a modest price. It's a delight of balance and fruity harmony, just bursting with the flavors of strawberries, blackberries, and white cherries, and as such it is the perfect wine to serve a little chilled at a summer barbecue. To find this wine near you, try When to Drink: Now Breathing/Decanting: Half an hour's breathing helps Food Pairing: Lighter meats such as pork, pasta, BBQ Grapes: Grenache (40 percent), Carignan (20 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (20 percent), Syrah (15 percent), and Merlot (5 percent) Region: Provence Country: France Price: $16 Availability: Moderate

Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town Country, the Robb Report, the Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently Artisanal Editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes the Nick Passmore: Wine of the Week column to He is also a judge at the widely respected annual Critics' Challenge wine competition.

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