A Delightful Provençal Red

In terms of wine, France's Provence region is best known for its rapidly improving rosé 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 rosés, 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 Château de Roquefort Gueule de Loup ($16).

The unusual thing about this wine, other than its fanciful name—which is a French name for snapdragons—is 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 cuvée 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—but 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 www.wine-searcher.com

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

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