Dear Jo:

Thanks for the '84 Plonk, Tres Ordinaire, Grand Frere. Definitely a wine for watching, not for drinking. I hear that it was released prematurely because there will be no budget for fiscal year 1984.

What's all this about the new man in France having designs on the wine industry? It'll be the end of the cradle of wine civilization as we know it. It's hard enough to find decent wines at BS (Before Stockman) prices as it is. Please send some inexpensive suggestions.

Yours in vino,


Dear Veritas:

Your information about M. Mitterand is correct. My sources tell me that he does indeed have a plan to nationalize the wine industry. The idea is to set up an Office des Vins in Paris. It'll be a sort of giant co-op, controlling production and prices.

Not everyone shares your pessimism that the fine wines of France will suffer. You don't believe that the French will allow socialism to interfere with the pleasures of the table? No, I'm told that the purpose of the Office des Vins is to improve standards for the small growers and cooperatives at the lower end of the scale.

The AOC (appellation control,ee) wines will not be affected, according to some. Others fear that it could lead to the demise of the traditional free market system. However, the plan has not come to fruition, yet. Perhaps opposition within France will temper some of the proposals. Courage, mon brave Veritas!

As for inexpensive wines to drink now: you are probably aware that what was a good buy at $3 three years ago, now costs $4. This is not a sudden rise and, whatever your political feelings, you really can't blame Mr. Stockman for this one.

California has only recently tackled this price segment. I am, of course, referring to the Wine Spectrum, with Taylor California Cellars and Monterey Vineyard. Hitherto, there's been a gap between the jugs and the varietals, which start at the $4 mark. It's the Europeans and South Americans who supply most of interesting examples between $3 and $4.

At that price, don't expect brilliance. They should be pleasant, uncomplicated table wines. When you find one you like, you've found good value. I don't mind telling you, Veritas, that I did find the exercise a little disheartening. On the whole, I'd rather spend another buck or two and drink proportionately better wines. However, the following handful are good buys. I'm sure that your own retailer will recommend others.

Light, dry whites: From Italy, '79 Pinot Bianco, Valle, Friuli, and '79 Bianco dell'Allegra, Cispiano, Tuscany, the former having more body and versatility. From France, a couple of nonvintage blends from good Chablis houses: Lamblin and Moreau. Dry to the point of sharpness is an '80 Sauvignon, Haut Poitou, bottled for the Troisgros Brothers. La Vieille Ferme, Vineyard Brands, is a well-balanced chardonnay from the Cotes de Luberon.

Reds: Spain's Torres family produce consistently good, inexpensive wines: Coronas and the fuller Sangre de Toro. From France, the lightest on the list is Georges Duboeuf's Cuvee del'Amitie. Fuller reds from the Rhone are the excellent Cotes du Rhone, Les Rouvieres, Vidal Fleury, and '79 La Vieille Ferme. Chile's Concha y Toro '76 Cabernet Sauvignon is the fullest in this selection, with a warm, earthy flavor.