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valreasOne look at the label tells you this should be a good value. Wine classifications in France are typically based on the size of the growing region in which the grapes are grown. If it says Cotes du Rhone on the label the grapes can come from anyplace in the Rhone Valley and these wines will typically be the cheapest. If the label says Cotes du Rhone Villages then the grapes come from any of the several villages that are known for their quality grapes and will be a bit more expensive. If the label says Cotes du Rhone Village and includes a village name then the wine should be of even higher quality and carry a still higher price, in the $15-$20 range. At the highest level are the top classified regions such as Hermitage or  Châteauneuf du Pape which usually have a hefty price tag.

This wine has a named village, Valréas, so its at the third quality level. Yet Trader Joe’s is selling it for only $6.  This blend of 70% Grenache and Syrah should be worth every penny.

But the proof is in the tasting, not on the label.

The nose is very typical of Southern Rhone, Grenache-based wines—muted strawberry jam with dusty, baked earth notes, thyme, and a hint of smelly socks. (I mean that in a good way. It’s just a hint.) But on the palate the red fruit quickly turns tart becoming angular and peppery at midpalate. There is a seam of juiciness  that suggests depth but it quickly disappears under too much acidity. The tannins provides some length but with no fruit to support the overall impression it’s rough and rustic. But that acidity makes it versatile as a food pairing.

The earthy aromas provide some interest. If you’re curious about genuine old world “vin ordinaire” its worth picking up a bottle at this price. But expect neither solace nor sophistication. Expect grim and gritty like Lucinda Williams crying Jailhouse Tears

Update: On day three after opening this wine acquired a much richer midpalate. Give it lots of time.

Score: 85

Price: $6 (purchase at Trader Joe’s)

Alc: 13.5%

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