Exceptional Excellent Very Good
Wines from an arc extending from eastern Spain through the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean coast of France share a common soul. They are generally made of grenache (garnacha in Spain), carignan (cariñena), mourvedre (monastrell) and, more often just in France, syrah. Moving from west to east, Spain to France, they also tend to show exuberance to increasing sophistication. This week’s selections include three wines, ranging from $16 to $20, that show the range and variety of this Mediterranean crescent. It would be a fun evening for wine nerds to parse the subtle differences among these three wines.
Côtes du Roussillon Villages, France, $20
Domaine Cazes is brought to us by the Hirsch Collection, a boutique importer based in Georgia whose wines are now entering the D.C. market. Lucky us. This full-bodied red, a blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre grown on clay-limestone soils in southwestern France, along the Mediterranean coast near the Spanish border, is terrific. Enjoy this beauty with your heartiest winter braises and stews, smoked meats and steaks off the grill. This wine has limited availability right now but is worth seeking out. Alcohol by volume: 15 percent.
Imported by the Hirsch Collection, distributed by Hop & Wine: available in the District at Cordial Craft Wine, Beer and Spirits (the Wharf), Rodman’s, Streets Market (various locations), Yes! Organic Market (Georgia Avenue).
Rhone Valley, France, $18
Cotes-du-Rhone has a soulful quality for me, perhaps in part because of my idealized view of southern France, its scenery and cuisine, and a lingering desire to retire there someday and write a best-selling book like Peter Mayle did. The wines, at their best, are delicious and transporting, conjuring up images of rugged hillside towns, the sound of the mistral wind, and the wild herbs that cover the landscape. The Clos St. Antonin is a ticket to Avignon. ABV: 14 percent.
Imported and distributed by Simon N Cellars: Available in Maryland at Wine Cellars of Annapolis; on the list at Grapes Wine Bar in Annapolis. Available in Virginia at Leesburg Vintner in Leesburg, Tastings of Charlottesville and Wine Warehouse in Charlottesville, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview).
Cariñena, Spain, $16
This wine is a blend of 85 percent cariñena (carignane) and 15 percent garnacha (grenache), so it is a Spanish counterpart to a southern Rhone wine from France. Its spicy vitality seems to reflect the sunny climate. It packs loads of dark fruit flavors, with pepper and wild herbs. Pair this beauty with grilled meats or hearty stews. ABV: 14 percent.
Imported by Tri-Vin, distributed by DMV: Available in the District at Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits, Yes! Organic Market (Georgia Avenue). Available in Maryland at Dawson’s Liquors in Severna Park; Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store in Hyattsville; Frederick Wine House in Frederick; Friendship Wine & Liquor in Abingdon; the Italian Market in Annapolis; Town Center Market in Riverdale.
Western Cape, South Africa, $18
Racy with acidity, but with just a hint of the grassy herbal quality of many New World sauvignon blancs, this wine is invigorating, the type of thirst quencher that gets you excited for dinner. It’s also great with salads, shellfish and lighter seafood dishes. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Imported by Terroir Selections, distributed by Country Vintner: Available in the District at 1 W Dupont Circle Wine & Liquors, Barmy Wines & Liquors, Calvert Woodley, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Rodman’s, Whole Foods Market (Foggy Bottom, P Street); on the list at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab and Le Diplomate. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s and Total Wine & More in McLean, Wegmans (various locations).
Jumilla, Spain, $13
Here’s a polished blend that shows a little too much oak influence for my taste, making it a bit sweet and heavy, but I keep coming back to its dark cherry and vanilla bean flavors, with a hint of espresso on the finish. Okay, so that sounds more like dessert than dinner, but a lot of modern wines fit that description, and this is well made. ABV: 14.5 percent.
Imported by Tri-Vin, distributed by DMV: Available in the District at Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits. Available in Maryland at Aloha Liquor, Mt. Vernon Supermarket and Wine Source in Baltimore; Apple Greene Wine & Spirits and Dunkirk Wine & Spirits in Dunkirk; Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John; Decanter Fine Wines and Kings Contrivance Liquor Shop in Columbia; Firefly Farms in Accident; Giolitti Delicatessen in Annapolis; Hunt Valley Wine, Liquor & Beer in Cockeysville; Liquor Locker, Valley Wine & Spirits and Wooden Keg Liquors in Hagerstown; Marlin Market in Pocomoke City; Montgomery County Wine & Liquor Stores (several locations); State Line Liquors in Elkton; the Winery in Chester; Town Center Market in Riverdale; Ye Old Spirit Shop in Frederick.
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.