We absolutely love it when we happen upon a wine that may one day rival its celebrated neighbors but is available now at prices that give us all a crack at it before it jumps to the top shelf. In this case the wine, the 2006 La Cuvée du Président Vacqueyras, hails from a southern Rhone appellation between giants Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas. If it's a bit less refined, even rustic, well, at about $17 a bottle at wine shops and big-box stores, we just don't care.
Like Gigondas reds, Vacqueyras reds are grenache blends. By French law they must contain at least 50 percent of that grape, fleshed out with syrah and mourvedre or any of the other Cotes du Rhone varietals. The result is robust and edgy wines that can stand up to the most muscular fare, from herb-rubbed grilled venison steaks to snails sauteed in red wine and enough garlic to drive off a platoon of vampires.
This deep purple wine's origins reveal themselves at first sniff. The fruit component on the nose is the deep bass note of black fig, but stony earth and herb-tinged violets assert themselves strongly, too. On the tongue, herbs and spices (clove and pepper, especially) set off rich dark fruits, the fig joined now by black cherry, the whole ensemble given legs by well-developed tannins. Black cherry reasserts itself toward the end of a long and lingering finish, as does the savor of sun-warmed earth.
Our plan is to buy wines from this appellation while we still can get them at prices like this.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.