Irouleguy, France, $22
This blend is 80 percent tannat, the rest cabernet franc. Its structure speaks of the mountains (Irouleguy is nestled among the foothills of the Pyrenees), yet the cab franc lends a softness and a Bordeaux sensibility that makes the wine eminently accessible now, while easily worthy of five or six years in your cellar.
Wine Traditions: Available in the District at Cork Market. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Whole Foods Market in Arlington.
Clos Fardet Madiran 2010
Madiran, France, $18
Madiran is happily situated to enjoy the cool climatic influence of the Atlantic as well as the warmth from the Mediterranean. Its tannat-based wines are closer in style to those of Virginia: rich, tannic and ripe, with bright red fruit and a dense earthiness to keep the flavors grounded. The Clos Fardet shows dark berry fruit with an appealing stony character.
Wine Traditions: Available in the District at MacArthur Beverages. Available in Virginia at J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese in Richmond, Market Street Wineshop in Charlottesville.
Chateau Bouissel Classic 2008
Fronton, France, $14
Where else would you find a blend of negrette, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and malbec? It’s unique, yet not totally unfamiliar, combining some of the warmth and fleshiness of wines from the Rhone and Languedoc with the structure of a good basic Bordeaux.
Elite: Available in the District at Arrowine, Rodman’s, Whole Foods Market (various locations); on the list at Bourbon Steak. Available in Maryland at Wine Cellars of Annapolis. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Whole Foods Market (various locations).
Domaine du Cros Cuvee Vieilles Vignes 2010
Marcillac, France, $18
Made entirely from the fer servadou grape, this is almost nutty, with a roasted character over ripe dark-fruit flavors. There’s an appealing liveliness that suggests authenticity and honesty. It tastes as though someone’s hands were involved in its production.
Wine Traditions: Available in the District at Cork Market, MacArthur Beverages; on the list at Cork Wine Bar. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington.
Camin Larredya Au Capceu 2010
Jurancon, France, $35
This sweet dessert wine made entirely from the petit manseng grape could be the poor man’s Sauternes: rich and honeyed, without the sublime knee-buckling focus, to be sure, but also without the knee-buckling price tag. This is a model for sweet wines from this grape in Virginia. Camin Larredya also makes delicious dry wines from gros manseng and petit manseng at more affordable prices.
Wine Traditions: Available in Virginia at the Wine Cabinet in Reston; on the list at Bastille in Alexandria.