Hello, everyone! I hope you had a good Thanksgiving Day in this strangest of years, with a bountiful feast and your choice of very good wine.
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We celebrated with an excellent red wine from Ventoux, one of the best values I’ve run across in a while.
This discovery didn’t surprise me much, as Ventoux has been a rich source of wine value for a long time. A lot of us discovered the modest yet delicious delights of La Vielle Ferme back in the ’70s when then-New York Times food writers Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey celebrated the worth of these wines that then sold for around $2. It’s still available for $6 or $7 for a 750ml bottle, $12 for a magnum, or $20 for a 3-liter jug, which is a pretty good price for a decent wine.
Ventoux – pronounced “VaN-too” with a French nasal “n” if you’re up to it – is named after the landmark mountain, Mont Ventoux. The tallest mountain in Provence, it is geologically part of the Alps, but it stands out because there are no other mountains nearby, and it rises to its relatively modest 6,270-foot peak from a base not too far above sea level. Avignon, only a few feet above sea level on the Southern Rhône, is only 40 miles away.
The peak also gets your attention from afar because it’s white limestone, and it’s bald. It was deforested in the 1700s, historians say, to provide wood to build the French fleet stationed at Toulon on the Mediterranean nearby. Cyclists revere the mountain as one of the most difficult stages in the annual Tour de France, nicknamed “The Beast.” But if you’re not pushing so hard, it’s an easy walk to the top, and it’s even possible to drive to the summit.
It’s also a landmark on the skyline of the French Ventoux wine region, which shares Mont Ventoux’s vine-friendly limestone soil in its rolling slopes on the mountain’s southern side. The region is located in Provence adjacent to the Côtes du Rhône, and the wines share similar grape blends and similar style.
I’d take a glass of La Vielle Ferme any day, and it’s easy to find just about everywhere. But let me tell you about my Thanksgiving dinner treat, which is just a little more expensive, even more impressive, and, sadly, not too easy to find.
Bonpas 2018 Grande Réserve des Challières Ventoux , available locally for just $12.99, is a Ventoux from a producer that claims a Ventoux heritage reaching back to 1318. It’s a subtle and complex blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Carignan, offering the red-berry and plum scents typical of the Southern Rhône and Provence, but it also boasts intriguing bacon and mineral character that could almost pass for a far more pricey Côte-Rotie.
If you can find it, or its similar sibling Côtes du Rhône Réserve de Bonpas, I highly recommend it. But if they’re out of your reach and you’ve still got an appetite for Ventoux wines right now, Wine-Searcher.com will show you dozens of other wines from Ventoux.
And of course there’s always La Vieille Ferme. You can’t really go wrong with Ventoux.
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Today’s Tasting Report
Bonpas 2018 Grande Réserve des Challières Ventoux ($12.99)
Startlingly good for the price, this red Ventoux wine is made from typical Southern Rhône grapes: Syrah and Grenache show themselves clearly in bright red-berry and plum fruit, fragrant black pepper, and a subtle hint of bacon on the nose and palate, with pepper and intriguing stony minerality on the palate. Mourvèdre and Carignan are also in the blend. Good acidic balance makes it a fine companion with food, and palatable but distinct tannic astringency in the finish suggests at least moderate aging potential. It’s probably above midway in the label’s 11-14% range, but it’s not hot or harsh. This wine may not be easy to find, but grab it if you can. U.S. importer: Boisset America, St. Helena, Calif. (Nov. 26, 2020)
FOOD MATCH: Food friendly and appropriately acidic, this would be a match with red meat and cheese in general. It should be great with a traditional holiday feast involving roast poultry or beef, but it also proved beautiful with a hearty, umami-rich plant-based entree, a risotto made with roasted mushrooms and deeply browned onions with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
WHEN TO DRINK: It’s delicious and ready to drink now, but I think it could age and perhaps evolve under good cellar conditions for three to five more years.
This is a great value at my local $13 price. Wine-Searcher.com lists a $14 average U.S. retail for the similar Cotes du Rhone Reserve de Bonpas.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors for Bonpas Grande Réserve des Challières Ventoux on Wine-Searcher.com.
If the Ventoux Grande Réserve de Challieres is hard to find, check Wine’Searcher for the similar Côtes du Rhône Réserve de Bonpas.
Follow this Wine-Searcher link to find listings for dozens of other wines from Ventoux.
TALK ABOUT CÔTES DU RHÔNE:
Join this month’s Wine Focus conversation, Côtes du Rhône and its Villages, in our WineLovers Discussion Group.
More affordable wines
Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!
- La Vieille Ferme Vin de France Rosé ($8.99)
- La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($8.99)
- Laroque Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
- Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
- Alamos Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
- Caposaldo Chianti ($8.99)
- d’Arenberg McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
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