Four from the Rhone
As noted in this week's 30 Second Wine Advisor, a number of specific villages in Cotes-du-Rhone are permitted to use the local name on the label; and this number has increased in the past 10 years or so, adding a few more geographical words to the glossary that serious wine lovers should memorize in our quest for the next good glass.

The first Cotes-du-Rhone villages to achieve this "appellation" status were Gigondas and then Vacqueyras, both of which now enjoy a reputation as good, somewhat less expensive alternatives to Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Recently, two more Rhone villages have started to draw a lot of attention: Cairanne and Rasteau. Both of these villages can produce standout wines, with Rasteau making some remarkably sturdy and tannic reds that require long aging and that almost remind me of Hermitage; the Cairannes I've tasted are more accessible when young but show real elegance and balance that distinguishes them from "simple" Cotes-du-Rhone.

Here are notes on two Rasteaus, a very fine Cairanne, and a particularly good regular Cotes-du-Rhone that I've sampled recently:

Domaine Brusset Domaine Brusset 1998 Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne ($13.99)
Dark ruby color, with fresh red-fruit and mineral aromas, clean and appealing; apple-skin and cherry-berry on the nose and palate, with crisp fruit flavors and delicate black pepper well balanced with fresh-fruit acidity. Excellent wine, a match for some bottles that sell for double the price. U.S. importer: New Castle Imports, Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Aug. 19, 2000)

Chateau du Trignon Chateau du Trignon 1998 Côtes du Rhône ($9.99)
Slightly hazy ruby red, with grapey, peppery fruit aromas and a fresh and jammy flavor full of big, ripe fruit and fragrant, freshly ground black pepper. A simple, gulpable quaff, not a fancy wine but a delicious one, full of the sunshine of Provence. U.S. importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (Aug. 19, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Both these wines made an extremely good match with grilled lamb-leg steaks marinated before cooking in another Cotes-du-Rhone with lots of garlic and black pepper.

Domaine de Beaurenard Domaine de Beaurenard 1998 Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau ($14.99)
Inky blackish-garnet color. Fragrant black pepper aromas over perfumed fruit. Big, chewy and tannic, black fruit and "garrigues," the herbal scent of Provence. There's more than enough fruit to carry it now, but the hulking tannins call for cellar time. U.S. importer: New Castle Imports Inc., Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Aug. 9, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Good with the assertive flavors of a pork and summer-vegetable couscous.

Chateau du Trignon Chateau du Trignon 1998 Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau ($17.99)
Very dark garnet, with black-fruit aromas and distinct mineral notes. Full and tart flavor, quite tannic indeed. A big wine, not as intractible as the 1998 Gourt de Mautens Rasteau that inspired so much discussion, but definitely in need of gentle aging. U.S. importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (July 29, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: A spicy Cuban-style dish of pork braised with onions brings this youthful wine around.

Clock These wines were featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor, my free weekly E-mail bulletin of quick wine tips, advice and tasting notes. Click here to join the E-mail list!

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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