A very nice and cheap ($10) Cotes du Rhone from noted winemaker, negociant, and consultant Jean-Luc Colombo. He is described as something of a maverick, tossing aside traditional approaches and relying on "nearly organic" farming techniques and new, small [barrels (called "barriques") for aging the wine. These techniques may show results in some of his more expensive wines, but they were probably wasted here. I say this not because this was a bad wine; far from it, it was an excellent bottle of $10 red. It was an excellent wine for the price, which I guess should be the final arbiter of things.

The wine is a shining ruby red, with very few hints of purple at the edges. I understand that the wine is composed of 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 25% Mourvedre grapes--a pretty standard composition for a Rhone wine. It presented gentle aromas of pepper, and when I took a really strong, long whiff, I could catch some cherry scents. The taste was grapey and pleasant, reasonably complex and not overwhelmed by oakiness. The finish was a moderate length...perhaps not enough tannins for my developing tastes, but this makes it a good wine to sip today. I bet it would go with almost anything, barring highly acidic foods, such as those involving tomato sauces.

This is what I have come to expect from a 1998 Cotes: strong grape tastes, but not thick; straightforward aromas that please but don't bowl me over with fruitiness. Cotes du Rhone, if I may make a general observation, seem to delight in the purity and inherent complexity of the grape taste, and I thank them for it. Colombo has made a great wine for the price, though perhaps I expected more on account of his reputation. If I have the inclination and the bucks, I may try out one of his pricier offerings.

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