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La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2003
Blend: 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Carignan, 15% Cinsault
Jean Pierre Perrin established La Vieille Ferme over 35 years ago, when he chose to produce an inexpensive, straightforward Rhône wine to sell by direct mail to French wine lovers. He used the same grape varieties in similar proportions to those planted at the family's Château de Beaucastel, in a similar vinification process. The result was an immediate success in France, a wine of character and style in keeping with its Beaucastel heritage.
Initially, Jean Pierre made only Côtes du Rhône, but steeply rising grape prices in 1976 caused him to switch to Côtes du Ventoux and eventually to produce a white wine from the mountainous Côtes du Luberon. La Vieille Ferme was introduced to the United States in 1970. The response was an immediate, overwhelming acceptance and an outpouring of critical acclaim from eminently knowledgeable critics who recognized La Vieille Ferme for its consistently fine quality and value.
A small category representing the wines that either fall outside of appellation lines or don’t subscribe to the law and traditions set forth by the French government within certain classified appellations, “Vin de France” is a catch-all that includes some of the most basic French wines as well as those of superior quality. The category includes large production, value-driven wines. It also includes some that were made with a great deal of creativity, diligence and talent by those who desire to make wine outside of governmental restrictions. These used to be called Vin de Table (table wine) but were renamed to compete with other European countries' wines of similar quality.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.