Exceptional   Excellent   Very Good

by Dave McIntyre

Many importers contract with cooperative wineries to produce private label wines they can sell inexpensively back here in the United States. We may not realize which wines these are, unless we scrutinize the labels. But many of these bottles are terrific values and are worth seeking out. In particular, I’m a fan of wines from the Les Vignerons de Tavel co-op in France’s Rhone Valley. This week’s recommendations include two of its makes, sold through two different importers, including our greatest value of the week, the Les Hauts d’Acantalys Lirac 2016.


Les Vignerons de Tavel, Les Hauts d'Acantalys Lirac 2016


Rhone Valley, France, $14

Lirac is one of the villages in France’s Rhone Valley that has its own appellation in recognition of its quality. And Les Vignerons de Tavel is a cooperative winery that supplies excellent wines at good prices to several importers. The Hauts d’Acantalys is savory and rich, with flavors of dark fruit, violets and lavender. Enjoy this with steaks or roasts. Alcohol by volume: 14.5 percent.

Imported and distributed by Dionysos: Available in the District at Rodman’s, Whole Foods Market (P Street, Tenleytown). Available in Maryland at Balducci’s and Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Dawson’s Market in Rockville, Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Hop N Grape in North Bethesda. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese and Screwtop Wine Bar & Cheese Shop in Arlington, Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean, Reston), Swirl & Sip in Fairfax, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview).


Les Vignerons de Tavel, Les Lauzeraies 2018


Tavel, Rhone Valley, $16

Tavel rosés are typically deep pink in color, despite the current trend that favors paler wines. The Les Lauzeraies is true to type for Tavel — substantial mouthfeel and body, with juicy fruit and acidity to match heartier summer foods. ABV: 14 percent.

Imported and distributed by M. Touton Selections: Available in the District at Eye Street Cellars, Harry’s Reserve Fine Wines & Spirits, Rodman’s, Wide World of Wines. Available in Maryland at Frederick Wine House and Old Farm Liquors in Frederick, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington. Available in Virginia at the Caboose Market & Cafe in Ashland, Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington, Market Street Wineshop and Rio Hill Wine & Beer in Charlottesville, Specials Wine Seller in Kilmarnock, Unwined in Belleview, Vino Market in Midlothian.


De Wetshof Estate Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2018/2019


Robertson, South Africa, $17

This De Wetshof chardonnay is one of the perennial best values in the market. It’s unwooded, so what you get is the pure essence of the grape. I tasted the 2018, which is still on the market, but the distributor recently began offering the 2019. Try both if you can find them; the suppleness of the 2018 may give you a clue to how the fresh 2019 will evolve over the next year. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Imported by Broadbent Selections, distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Pearson’s, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Bradley Food & Beverage and Beer, Wine & Co. in Bethesda, the Bottle Shop in Potomac, College Square Liquors in Westminster, Decanter Fine Wines in Columbia, Eastport Liquors in Annapolis, Fishpaws Marketplace in Arnold, Harbour Spirits in Severna Park, Vintage Cellars in Clarksville. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Mom’s Apple Pie in Occoquan.

La Bastide Saint Dominique, "Jules Rochebonne" 2016


Cotes-du-Rhone, France, $20

From a ripe vintage, this substantial blend of 80 percent syrah and 20 percent grenache mimics a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is deep in color, with baked fruit flavors and a hint of wild herbs. This is definitely not a wine for casual sipping; enjoy it with hearty meat dishes and company. Made with organic grapes. ABV: 14.5 percent.

Imported and distributed by Simon N Cellars: Available in the District at Cork & Fork, MacArthur Beverages. Available in Virginia at Leesburg Vintner in Leesburg, Tastings and Wine Warehouse in Charlottesville, Unwined (Alexandria).

Famille Duveau Saumur Champigny 2017


Loire Valley, France, $21

France’s Loire Valley used to be known for inconsistent, thin and astringent red wines, but in recent years the region’s reds have been reliably ripe and delicious. Wines such as this cabernet franc stake out a style distinct from the pedigree of Bordeaux or the power of California. Look for smoky notes of black fruit and boxwood. I suggest decanting this for an hour before dinner to let those flavors unfurl. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Imported by Franck’s Signature Wines, distributed by Lanterna: Available in the District at Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits. Available in Maryland at Wine Cellars of Annapolis, Wine Source in Baltimore.

Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

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