Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
July 14 is Bastille Day, and I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely going to be downing some tasty French vin before storming my neighborhood royal fortress-cum-prison. Before getting into all that liberté, egalité, fraternité business, the question is, of course, which wine. France makes more wine than any other country in the world - it retook first place from Italy last year, producing roughly 1.3 billion gallons of the stuff - from hundreds of different regions, large and small.
But I do think that drinking a $150 grand cru on Bastille Day doesn’t really put you in the spirit of the thing. It’s a day of the people, the common folk; and even though the only prisoners who actually got rescued from the Bastille were four convicted forgers, two lunatics and a nobleman whose own family had him locked up for being depraved (don’t ask), well, as the French say, c’est la vie. Any of them, or the any of the members of the mob who stormed the place, would undoubtedly have enjoyed the following bottles, all at prices that ought to inspire a chorus or two of "La Marseillaise."
2011 Château Haut-Rian Blanc ($12)
Primarily Sauvignon Blanc, with a bit of Sémillon for additional texture, this well-priced Bordeaux white is appealingly zippy, with fresh grapefruit notes and scents of cut grass and citrus. (The 2010 vintage is also drinking very well.)
2011 Domaine Lafage Côté d’Est ($12)
Abundantly floral, this southern French blend of Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay and Marsanne is medium-bodied and appealingly silky, but with bright acidity - an ideal picnic white.
2010 Pierre Boniface Apremont Vin de Savoie ($13)
It’s an obscure region - the Savoy, in the far east of France, hard up against the Alps - and an obscure grape variety, Jacquère; but chill down this green appley, light-bodied white on a hot day, and you’ll come to love it.
2011 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rosé ($12)
Languedoc star Mas de Daumas Gassac’s flagship red sells for $45 or more; this raspberry-aromatic rosé, made from grapes grown at nearby vineyards and released under the winery’s second label, is a steal.
2010 Domaine Grand Veneur Côtes du Rhône Reserve ($15)
First, 2010 is a spectacularly good vintage in the Rhône Valley. Second, the Jaume family, who own Grand Veneur, make extraordinary wines at every price. That combo means that this powerful, spicy, luscious red tastes like it ought to cost twice what it does.
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