French wines are a lot like David Bowie. Just when you think they’ve got nothing new to offer, they come out of nowhere with a brand new vibe based on their old school legacy.
While Bowie has his first album in a decade dropping in March, savvy wine lovers are rediscovering the value found across France — especially in its lesser known regions like the Côtes du Rhône. Though famous for Châteauneuf-du-Pape — its liquid love letter to the pope — many wine newbies are surprised to discover that the Rhône Valley is the original home of both the red syrah (a.k.a. shiraz) and grenache grape varieties.
Grenache dominates the southern portion of the valley, where the bright-fruited berry makes up the majority of the area’s blends. Most are smooth, new worldly wines with great food appeal (think everything from hearty stews and lamb to a relaxed charcuterie platter).
Famille Perrin is a regional superstar and its grenache-led 2010 Côtes du Rhône Réserve Rouge ($15.95 to $17.99) is rich and elegant with licorice and wild berry aromatics and a meaty, mouth-filling body of balanced black fruit.
Prices reflect the range across the country. Some products may not be available in all provinces.