Somehow, despite the devalued dollar, the inflated Euro, and the ever-increasing cost of shipping, France has recently started sending us some amazing wines at strikingly low prices. Perhaps their fear of an American backlash over the actions of M. Jacques Chirac, president of the Republic of France, has caused them to artificially lower the prices. In any case, no matter where you stand on the politics, don't blame the farmers for the actions of the politicians. But do take advantage of the bargains.
The most exciting French wine discovery I've made recently is Max Aubert's collection of wines. These have only recently become available in Austin, brought in by a family operation called Vin Independent. Aubert's wines are quietly intense -- they don't bang you over the head with fruit, yet they have plenty of richness. The nicest part is the price. My favorite of his wines, Cote du Rhone La Baume, is a dark red wine with a creamy texture, plush aromas, and luscious flavors, all for the price of $9.99. He also makes two premium wines called Domaine de la Presidente Galifay. The red version ($19.99) is made from a peppery Grenache with a bit of Syrah. It has an earthy flavor that goes great with braised meats and root vegetables. The white version ($19.99) is mostly Viognier with a touch of White Grenache. If you've ever been around an orange grove when it's blossoming, you'll recognize the mysterious, sensual aroma. Delicious stuff.
Kermit Lynch is one of the great French wine importers. His name on a bottle almost always bodes well for the wine inside. One of Lynch's most successful wines is Chateau Graville-Lacoste White Bordeaux ($14.99). Lush without ever getting in the way of food, it is a wonderful match with toast and a small slather of Roquefort. For folks looking for intensely acidic wines to pair with shellfish, you can hardly beat Domaine de Pierres Plates Reuilly ($14.99), a grapefruity wine with a lot of complexity for the price. If you want to see how the French drink their Chardonnay, taste Lynch's Burgundian discovery: Francine and Olivier Savary's Chablis ($16.99). Unlike the buttery and oaky Chardonnays of California, this one tastes like tart apples. Try it with an onion-and-goat-cheese tart.
Finally, a wine that startled me in terms of its price/quality ratio is Chateau le Thou, A Georges et Clem ($17.99). This wine is from the Languedoc region of France, an area long considered to make poor wines. Not anymore. Le Thou is full of dark berry aromas along with an intense complicated and long lasting flavor. Think of dried figs, blackberries, and the kind of pleasant smells that emanate from a Hill Country field on a hot Texas day. This is wine to love now, but I bet it will last a good 10 years. For the price, it is a steal. I'll be having some tonight with a New York strip steak. I can already feel the glow.