From $4.98, €4.83, £5.99, 11 Swiss francs
Okay, this choice is hardly original, but the 2009 is particularly worthy of your attention. Here is a bargain way to enjoy the ripeness in the southern Rhône that resulted from the exceptionally warm, dry summer of 2009. La Vieille Ferme 2009 Ventoux (as the appellation known until 2008 as Côtes du Ventoux is now known) is made from grapes grown at cooler, higher altitudes than the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards about which I have been writing in such detail this week (see Rhône 2009 - a guide) and at rather higher yields, so the grapes were juicier and the wine is much simpler, fruitier and designed for much earlier drinking - now in fact.
Mont Ventoux is the cone-shaped mountain you can see in the distance from so many southern Rhône vineyards and is cool enough to be snow covered for much of the winter. The grapes for this wine - typically 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Cinsault and 15% Carignan - were grown on its flanks at up to 300 m above sea level. The wine is fermented in cement and aged in large old oak barrels until bottling in July.
La Vieille Ferme is the creation of the talented Perrin family, whose family estate, Château de Beaucastel, is the source of some of the finest red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape (see my enthusiastic review of their latest restaurant venture in Gigondas). But La Vieille Ferme is their well-established négociant label, meaning that they buy in the ingredients and make and market the wine in considerable quantity. When the vintage is right, these Vieille Ferme wines can represent exceptional value.
It must be made in considerable quantity because, according to Wine-searcher.com, it seems to be available in literally hundreds of American wine stores and is also available throughout Europe and in Australia.
In the UK at the time of writing, it is available at Cambridge Wine Merchants for £6.99 (or the equivalent of £6.57 if bought by the dozen), at Majestic for £7.49 or £11.98 for two, and it will be back in stock at Waitrose Wine Direct (after their 25% off special offer which seems to have cleared it out) at £6.37 just as soon as stocks have been replenished - expected to be towards the end of next week. I just hope that this latest shipment is as chock full of spice and sunshine as the one I tried.
This is a friendly, exuberant, fruity wine made to be enjoyed over the next 12 months, with casual meals. I could very easily imagine it with sausages and mash. Screwcapped for ease of use and maximum freshness.