4 ways to put some French class in your wineglass


Here are terrific wines from Michel Gassier in Costières de Nîmes in southern France, plus a classic style Chateauneuf-du-Pape and a good value premier cru Burgundy.

Vignobles Michel Gassier Nostre Pais 2014

Three stars.

Costières de Nîmes, France, $20

Whether the white or the red, these wines at $20 offer tremendous value. The white is a blend of Grenache blanc, roussanne, Viognier, clairette and bourbelanc. It combines the honeyed, lanolin character of a Rhone Valley white with the freshness of a cooler climate wine - the influence of the Mediterranean Sea. The red combines Grenache, carignan, syrah, mourvedre and cinsault into a beguiling elixir of earth, stones and fruit, seasoned with an herbal note of sea air. Alcohol by volume: 13.5 percent for the white, 14.5 percent for the red.

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Vignobles Michel Gassier, Cercius 2014

Three stars.

Cotes-du-Rhone, France, $16

The red Cercius, a Cotes-du-Rhone, is a blend of Grenache and syrah that soothes the palate and soul with flavors of tobacco leaf, cherry and fruit compote. At 15 percent alcohol, it's a bit heady, but the wine manages to remain balanced without being "hot." The white Cercius 2015 blends Grenache blanc, roussanne and sauvignon blanc, which give the wine a zippy acidity that adds beguiling freshness. The white is labeled as a Vin de France, because the sauvignon blanc is a foreigner to the Rhone Valley. ABV: 15 percent for the red, 13.5 percent for the white.

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Domaine Berthet-Rayne 2013

Three stars.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France, $38

This is a classic Chateauneuf, with earthy flavors of blackberries, prunes and that appealing southern Rhone herbal character known as garrigue. Organic viticulture helps keep the alcohol in balance. ABV: 14 percent.

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Domaine Besson Givry Premier Cru Le Petit Prétan 2014

Two stars.

Burgundy, France, $34

A premier cru Burgundy is hard to find at this price. This wine shows dark berry fruit - think blackberries, currants and the darkest cherries you've ever tasted, then add attitude. Fans of Russian River pinot noir from Sonoma County should enjoy this charmer. ABV: 13 percent.

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Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.


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