The Languedoc-Roussillon, Rhône Valley and Provence regions produce spicy Syrah- and Grenache-based reds, and exotic whites from varieties such as Clairette and Viognier.
Southern France Bottles:
2006 Les Jamelles Merlot ($10)
Originating from the vast Languedoc wine region, this Merlot is surprisingly appealing. Its violets-and-raspberries character is sweetened by an oak-vanilla note.
2005 Château Val Joanis Côtes de Luberon ($13)
Filled with licorice-edged blackberry fruit, Val Joanis’s basic bottling is a blend of Syrah and Grenache from the Luberon, east of Avignon and north of Aix-en-Provence.
2007 Jean-Luc Colombo Viognier La Violette ($14)
This Viognier calls to mind anise-scented peaches. It’s made with fruit from the Languedoc region by one of the Rhône’s most innovative négociants.
2007 Mas Carlot Clairette de Bellegarde ($15)
Nathalie Blanc-Marès and her husband, Cyril Marès, produce a range of good Provençal bottlings. Among them is this fragrant white, which uses an underrecognized local variety.
2007 Novellum Chardonnay ($11)
This full-bodied and creamy white is partly barrel-fermented, a process that helps give savory depth—and the impression of a much more expensive wine.
2007 Usseglio Panorama Red ($12)
Panorama, a floral red with a distinctive note of dusty earth, comes from one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s most respected small producers.
2007 Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc ($13)
Smoky, stony fruit characterizes this savory blend of white Rhône grape varieties. It’s made by the Perrins, one of the region’s most renowned families.
2006 Château Pesquié Terrasses ($14)
Located outside the tiny Rhône town of Mormoiron, Château Pesquié is known for substantial reds like Terrasses, which is dense with earthy raspberry notes and supple tannins.
2005 J. Vidal-Fleury Domaine Côtes du Rhône Le Pigeonnier ($14)
Round and rich, this Southern Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre has the scent of ripe black cherries and a lively, spicy finish. It’s big and boisterous, a pleasure to drink.