Forget resolutions to lose weight or call your dear Aunt Sally more in 2012. You’re far better off sticking to something you actually have a chance of doing: Drinking better. And by that we don’t mean spending your mortgage payment on overpriced bottles that you have no business trying to afford. There’s no shame in admitting that, since you’re not Richard Branson, you really can’t justify that bottle of 2005 Chateau Petrus at $3,000 a pop.
But just because you’re drinking on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. Of the many strategies to imbibing better, few are more well-tested and reliable than focusing on regions and grape varieties that don’t quite have the same instant name-recognition as their competitors. So drink wines from Austria, from Greece, from Arizona if you can find them. And seek out regions and appellations like the one below, the Cotes du Roussillon. The wines from here, as well as those from the neighboring Languedoc, are typically food-friendly, excellent on their own and taste like they’re far more expensive than they really are. This one, from Chapoutier, is an absolute steal at around $20.
M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut “Occultum Lapidem” 2008, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France
The nose here speaks of brambly fruit tinged with spice, of garrigue and peppercorn, smoked bacon and warm black licorice. The palate, however, is what really stands out for me: The balance is impeccable, and the deceptively elegant texture carries flavors of dark cherries, ripe plums and a vaguely gamy note nodding in the direction of venison. It’s that irresistible balance between subtly sweet dark-skinned fruit and something more mineral, more terroir-driven, that raises this wine to an entirely different place than you’d expect at this price-point. Highly recommended.