30 Second Wine Advisor: Value French red since 1970

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Value French red since 1970

Back in the 1970s, when I was a young fella who hadn't started writing about wine and really didn't even know all that much about it except that it was good, the New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne belted out a hymn of praise to a "little" French wine called La Vieille Ferme, "the Old Farm."

Pay no attention to the fact that this wine came from the Côtes-du-Rhône, Claiborne advised, even though in that day if French wine didn't come from Bordeaux or Burgundy it didn't win much respect. It must have sold for around $2.50, a pretty good price in the day when $5 bought very good wine and the $6 point was for celebrations and holidays.

Then as now, La Vieille Ferme was made from Southern Rhône grapes selected and bottled by the Perrin family, owners of noteworthy Rhône properties including the iconic Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

And over the years it hasn't changed much. When Côtes-du-Rhône finally started to earn the respect it deserved and prices went up, the Perrins moved around the corner and down the road to the Côtes du Ventoux in Provence. In recent years they've also changed the label from a drawing of, well, an old farm, to one of poultry on the hoof, so to speak, in the barnyard. Neither of these changes much altered what's in the bottle; and a recent shift from natural cork to sturdy metal screwcap is a clear positive in a wine at this price.

I liked it then. I like it now. The 2008 is drinking nicely, and the 2009 should start turning up in your local wine shop soon. My tasting resport is below.

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Today's Tasting Report

La Vieille Ferme 2008 Côtes du Ventoux ($9.99)

La Vieille Ferme

Very dark blackish-purple, almost a patent-leather look, with a clear garnet edge. Ripe raspberry and plum aromas lead into a fresh, bright black-fruit flavor with plenty of mouth-watering acidity to make it food-friendly, and the alcohol is not too outlandish at 13.5%. A whiff of raspberry hangs on in a long finish. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault in undisclosed proportions, a typical and tasty Southern Rhône blend. U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands Inc., Birmingham, Ala. (Sept. 4, 2010)

FOOD MATCH: Made for red meat, it was a natural match with a locavore grass-fed rib eye from a farmers' market, crusted with black pepper, pan-seared and oven-finished with garlic and fresh rosemary.

VALUE: As it was in the '70s, so it is now: La Vieille Ferme is hard to beat for value in a traditional Rhône red. U.S. prices, per Wine-Searcher.com, range from $6.50 to $9.99. It's a buy even at my high-end local price; if you can find it for $7 or less it's an insane bargain.

WEB LINKS: The importer's fact sheet on La Vieille Ferme is here; don't miss the links in the right-hand column on this page, which offer maps, photos, reviews, even a click-to-listen pronunciation. ("La V'yeh Fehrm.")

Compare prices and find vendors for La Vieille Ferme on Wine-Searcher.com.

The importer also offers a fill-in form you can use to get information on retailers near you.

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