We usually don’t expect red wines from Anjou, a small subregion of France’s Loire Valley, to be any good, but here’s an example that will persuade even the most cynical wine skeptic to scour store shelves for obscure wines. I also recommend a refreshing New Zealand sauvignon blanc, a Tavel rosé to enjoy year-round, a lively California chardonnay and a second label from a popular Bordeaux chateau.
Musset-Roullier Les Neuf Vingt La Maturité de la Passion Anjou Rouge 2014/2015, 3 stars, Loire Valley, France, $15
I’m on my soapbox here. There are some wines we simply refuse to believe in because they don’t come from high-profile regions with pedigrees and points. Anjou, in France’s Loire Valley, is known for light, insipid reds or rosés. But this wine should grab our attention. It’s 100 percent cabernet franc, the main red grape of the Loire, and yes, lighter in depth and body than more famous Loire appellations such as Chinon, Saumur or Bourgeuil. Aromatic with spicy white pepper and Bing cherry notes, it develops more complexity about 30 minutes after you pull the cork. The distributor is moving to the 2015 vintage; more stores, restaurants and wine bars should take a chance on it. Alcohol by volume: 14 percent.
Domaine La Rocalière Le Classique 2016, 2.5 stars, Tavel, Rhone Valley, France, $20
Tavel is a classic rosé appellation in France’s Rhone Valley region, and this delicious wine shows why we should consider rosé a year-round wine. Okay, so we may not be sitting on the patio sipping this, but it has the body and fruit to match many lighter winter dishes—which may be why it’s more available now in restaurants than in retail outlets. ABV: 14 percent.
Bordeaux de Gloria 2015, 2.5 stars, Bordeaux, France, $22
Bordeaux lovers know the second labels of their favorite chateaus often offer the best values. The Bordeaux de Gloria is textbook, with mineral graphite notes accenting rich blackberry fruit. It makes a fine partner to meat dishes. ABV: 13 percent.
Saracina Unoaked Chardonnay 2016, 2 stars, Mendocino County, Calif., $20
Ripe with flavors of pears and peaches, this chardonnay shows the grape at its most natural, unencumbered by oak barrels. There is also a smidgen of Viognier to give it a flowery aroma. Never mind the lineage or the blend; this is a tasty wine. ABV: 13.2 percent.
Ribbonwood Sauvignon Blanc 2016, 2 stars, Marlborough, New Zealand, $17
This is textbook savvy, with a hint of grass and tropical fruit. Refreshing and straightforward, delicious by itself or with lighter seafood dishes. ABV: 13 percent.
Three stars exceptional, two stars excellent, one star very good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.