EUROPEAN RED wine values continue to inundate the market, and some of the best of them are yet to come as the copious harvests of 1981 and 1982 descend on these shores. France's wine industry, usually the world leader in high-priced luxury wines, has served up some lovely bottles of reds for under $6. Many of these offerings are from the Co tes-du-Rho ne region and also from the lower echelon of Bordeaux's hierarchy. A recent survey of Washington-area shops came up with the following 10 French red wines of exceptional value, given their high quality, and they have a double virtue of being drinkable now. Alphabetically, they are:
Caves St. Paul 1981 Co tes-du-Rho ne ($5.49 to $5.99): This is a stunning bottle that tastes as good as many a cha teau-neuf-du-pape. Deep ruby, with a briary, spicy taste, this full-bodied wine has chewy, rich fruity flavors, fine balance, and surprising length on the palate. A young wine which has all the necessary components to even improve for another 3 to 4 years.
Availability: Pearson's Liquor and Wine Annex, Rex Wine and Spirits.
Cha teau Haut Canteloup 1979 Bordeaux ($4.99 to $5.49): It used to be hard to find a mature, interesting bordeaux that offered a few whiffs of cedar and cassis for under $7 or $8. Thanks to America's strong dollar and a number of smart importers who were latching on to some of the better small estates or "petits chateaux," the consumer has several complex smaller wines from Bordeaux to choose from. This offering is quite mature, showing the tell-tale brownish edge in its color. However, don't be put off by the slight amber nuances in the color. This wine has a delightful bouquet that one might confuse with that of an expensive pauillac, as well as easygoing, medium-bodied, spicy, fruity flavors.
Availability: Pearson's Liquor and Wine Annex, Rex Wine and Spirits, Spring Valley Wine & Liquors.
Chateau Tayac 1979 Co tes de Bourg ($4.99-$5.49): Tayac remains one of the best-kept secrets in France, producing a wine from a little-known area adjacent to the Bordeaux region called Co tes de Bourg. This offering has both elegance and complexity, and is ready to drink. Medium bodied with an interesting fruity bouquet of moderate intensity, this stylish wine has a similar personality to that of a lighter St. Emilion.
Availability: At many shops.
Chateau Terre d'Agnes 1981 Bordeaux ($3.49): I really can't remember ever having a wine from Bordeaux of so much interest for under $3.50 a bottle. It is certainly not a big wine, but in its cedary, earthy, spicy bouquet and soft light intense flavors, there is charm and interest, two qualities that are often missing in many bordeaux costing twice as much. Quite ready to drink now, this wine, which pleases the purse already, should continue to please the palate for another two years.
Availability: Schneider's Liquor Store, Harry's Liquors, Rex Wine and Spirits, Pearson's Liquor and Wine Annex.
Domaine Brusset Co tes-du-Rho ne Villages 1981 ($5.41-$5.99): This big rich, spicy Rho ne Valley wine has full body, a chewy, ripe, fruity texture, and a bouquet reminiscent of a hickory barbecue. It opens and develops with breathing, and represents an excellent bargain. I recommend drinking it with full flavored foods over the next 3-4 years.
Availability: Pearson's Liquor and Wine Annex only.
Domaine Cabasse Co tes-du-Rho ne 1980 or 1981 ($5.99): Another big, rich, peppery, spicy, fruity rho ne with plenty of body and power, this wine does offer a bit more elegance and interest in its bouquet than most of these aggressive gutsy wines from France's Rho ne Valley. It is delightful to drink now and should continue to hold in a cellar nicely for another two years.
Availability: Pearson's Liquor and Wine Annex, Rex Wine and Spirits, Schneider's Liquor Store, Spring Valley Wine and Liquor and Larimer's Liquor Shop.
Fessy Rouge Non-Vintage Cuve'e Guilleret ($2.99): Made from 3-year-old vines in the Beaujolais-Villages appellation, this non-vintage blend, presumably from the 1982 vintage, is a sensational value. Light ruby with a light intense aroma of framboise, this medium-bodied wine is soft, round, fruity, and as good as many beaujolais on the market selling for twice the price. It is best served slightly chilled.
Availability: Harry's Liquors, Morris Miller Liquors, Wide World of Wines, Georgetown Wine and Cheese, Rex Wine and Spirits, Schneider's Liquor Store, Continental Liquors.
Grand Mazerolles 1979 Co tes de Blaye ($4.99-$5.49): This small estate has turned out some charming wines in the past, but the 1979 is one of the best yet. Surprisingly dark ruby in color with a youthful bouquet of ripe fruit and spicy oak, this medium bodied, fleshy wine will benefit from another 1 to 2 years of aging, but offers plenty of fruit and interest already. An exceptional value; don't miss it.
Availability: At many shops.
Guigal Co tes-du-Rho ne 1979 ($5.99): Guigal is one of France's most talented winemakers, and he takes this common regional wine from the Rho ne to exquisite heights in his 1979 bottling. The bouquet exudes cassis and framboise, and in the mouth, this medium-bodied wine has soft and luscious fruity flavors, a savory richness and a fine finish. It is ideal for drinking over the next several years.
Availability: A&A Liquors only.
Pierre Labeye Co tes du Tricastin 1982 "Cru de Meynas" ($3.99-$4.49): Mr. Labeye is one of the most respected growers in the little-known, but up-and-coming wine growing region of Tricastin in southern France. This offering is a great buy. Medium-dark ruby with an attractive bouquet of ripe raspberry fruit, this wine is lush, supple, very, very fruity, and simply delightful to drink now. I would even recommend cooling it in the refrigerator or ice bucket for 15 to 20 minutes prior to serving.
Availability: At many shops.