It was 45 years ago this year, when the then-young Baby Boomers were just beginning to grow away from Annie Green Springs and Lancers into better wine, that the New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne tipped us off to a little French wine called La Vieille Ferme, “the Old Farm.”
The wine in your glass should be an adventure.
Each month The California Wine Club travels the dusty back roads of wine country seeking out small California wineries passionate about the art of winemaking. The California Wine Club hand-selects the very best of the award-winning wines they discover and then shares them with their members.
In those days, people who thought they knew about wine – in other words, our parents – told us that French wine had to come from Bordeaux or Burgundy, or it wasn’t much good. Italian wine was for pasta and pizza. And California wine (er, “domestic”) didn’t get any respect, either.
But Claiborne knew better, and he told us. Sure, La Vieille Ferme was from the Côtes du Rhône, cheap stuff that Parisians sipped by the glass or little pitcher at sidewalk cafes. But we thought that was cool, and Craig said it was good. And it sold for about 2 bucks in the day when $5 wine was special stuff for special occasions. We learned how to pronounce it (“La V’yeh Fehrm” ), and we bought a lot of it.
Now the Baby Boomers are creaking toward retirement, shaking our canes at a world where we once trusted no one over 30; and La Vieille Ferme still sells for $10 or less – much less, in some markets. And it’s still good. How do they do that?
At least in part, I expect it has something to do with its owners, the Perrin family, whose portfolio also includes more sought-after Rhône properties up to the iconic Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape. They have a firm commitment to quality at all price levels.
In fairness, though, there’s also a geography shift involved. La Vieille Ferme was a Côtes du Rhône when Côtes du Rhône was cheap.
As the aforementioned Baby Boomers started to learn more about wine and break away from our parents’ prejudices, we drove the price of Rhônes right up. The Perrins, perhaps with a Gallic shrug, simply moved the wine’s source over to Côtes du Ventoux. Same grape varieties, nearby neighborhood, on the slopes of the low mountain that separates the Southern Rhône for Provence.
Given the family firm’s wine-making skills, the style of the wine didn’t change perceptibly, the price line held, and that took care of the situation for another generation
Prices keep rising, though, even if income levels for most of us do not. And I noticed something funny on my way to the wine shop the other day: The label of my La Vieille Ferme doesn’t say “Côtes du Ventoux” any more. It doesn’t say anything about the source of the grapes beyond “Produit de France – Product of France” in tiny letters across the top of the label.
The winery website calls it “Vin de France, Vallée du Rhône” (Wine of France, Rhone Valley”), and Wine-Searcher.com still lists it as “Côtes du Ventoux.” But I’ve got my doubts. The wine label is the legal document, and I figure it’s silent on the source (more specifically than “France”) with good reason.
But here’s the good news: It doesn’t matter. Still after all these years, the wine is good, and it’s consistent with the long-term style: Simple, tart, fine with food, a rustic French red perfect for the dinner table or the picnic basket. Enjoy!
Wine Focus for July: Hot Weather Reds
What red wines do you pull out when the ambience just doesn’t seem fitting for burly, high-alcohol blockbusters? We’re looking at hot weather reds to see us through July (and August, too); those crisp, fresh, lighter bodied reds that we might even drink lightly chilled. Beaujolais fits, of course, but so do a lot of Loire, Austrian and even German reds. Come to think of it, so would the red La Vieille Ferme!
Chill and cool it and tell us about your picks on Wine Focus. To join in, simply click over to the WineLovers Discussion Group – you can quickly and easily log in via Facebook if you use it – and use this link to read and participate in the conversation “Wine Focus for July: Hot Weather Reds.”
Each month The California Wine Club travels the dusty back roads of wine country seeking out small California wineries passionate about the art of winemaking. These artisan wineries handcraft wines in such limited amounts that their wines rarely make it out of their winery doors.
The California Wine Club hand-selects the very best of the award-winning wines they discover and then shares them with their members. A different small winery is featured every month, making this a true wine adventure.
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Today’s Tasting Report
La Vieille Ferme 2013 Rouge ($9.99)
Very dark ruby with reddish-violet glints against the light. Simple, a bit rustic, with undifferentiated black fruit and a hint of fennel; black plums, a whiff of black pepper, and tart, mouth-watering acidity on the palate, with a buzz of soft tannins joining in the finish. A Rhône-style blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault in undisclosed proportions, it’s good with food, nothing you’d call “elegant,” but – in the tradition of La Vieille Ferme – a versatile, inexpensive red table wine that offers plenty of pleasure for the price. U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala. (July 14, 2015)
FOOD MATCH: Serve it with just about any grilled red meat or roast poultry or meatless bean-and-cheese dishes, or drop it in place of a basic Chianti with Italian red-sauce fare. It was just fine with Martha Rose Shulman’s Zucchini Parmesan from The New York Times.
WHEN TO DRINK: Chances are that it would hold up for another few years, but honestly, with a reliable new vintage every year, I’m inclined to drink it up and go for the youngest available.
VALUE: That’s the point here today. At $10 or less in 2015, it has maintained its status as a value wine for 45 years.
WEB LINKS This fact sheet from importer Vineyard Brands covers the basics about the 2013 Rouge.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Find sources and check prices for La Vieille Ferme Rouge on Wine-Searcher.com.
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