Behind a Family Label, a Classic Red

Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone
Reserve, Rouge, 2016
13.5 percent alcohol content
Rhone Valley, France, 2016, $13.99

Famille Perrin’s Cotes du Rhone Reserve, Rouge, produced by one of the top winemakers in France’s Southern Rhone Valley, is an excellent wine to accompany a varied holiday feast.

Widely available in both New Hampshire and Vermont, it’s a wonderful bargain at its full price, but I’m finding it on sale for $9.99, which makes it a great value, a wine suitable for buying in multiples to drink with a festive meal.

What you get is a light, complex red wine, full of red berry flavors and well-rounded tannins at the finish. It’s a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes grown in Perrin estate vineyards. The grapes are destemmed and crushed, and the juice is fermented in stainless steel and oak. The wine is then aged for four months. The result is a perfect match for beef, lamb or poultry.

The Perrin family has been making wine since 1909, when Pierre Perrin, a scientist, acquired Chateau de Beaucastel from his father-in-law. The chateau has been around since the 1500s. Pierre’s son Jacques continued to expand the family’s holdings and began farming organically in the 1950s and bio-dynamically since the 1970s. When other growers were using pesticides, he bucked the trend, feeling strongly that insect sprays and weed killers weren’t the way to farm, according to a company profile published on the website of Vineyard Brands, the wine’s U.S. importer.

Jacques died suddenly in 1978, but his sons Jean-Pierre and Francois have carried on the legacy, building an international reputation for their extensive knowledge of terroir and making Famille Perrin the leading organic vintner in the Southern Rhone Valley. They also are recognized as ambassadors for the Rhone region in southeast France and for spreading the word about its grapes around the world, according to a 2014 article in Decanter magazine that recognized the brothers as “Men of the Year.”

Jean-Pierre and Francois Perrin continue to run the business along with the help of fifth generation family members. The Perrins’ Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape red is considered one of the best, and their Chateauneuf-du-Pape white is hard to beat, Karen MacNeil says in The Wine Bible.

The Rhone River, where winemaking goes back to the Romans, stretches from Switzerland through the south of France to the Mediterranean Sea. Its most significant wine area is the Southern Rhone region, which each year produces 53 million gallons of wine, not all of it great, that qualify as Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Rhone Village, Jancis Robinson writes in The Oxford Companion to Wine.

The most prestigious Rhone wines — from the Cote Rotie and Hermitage districts — are made in the northern French Rhone region, but the southern area also has such stars as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and some very fine Cotes du Rhone.

In addition to their stellar reputation for producing top wines, the Perrins also have paid a lot of attention to making high-quality value wines.

I first became acquainted with the Perrins a few years back when I started drinking La Vieille Ferme, still a favorite wine that often goes on sale for $5 a bottle. After I wrote about La Vieille Ferme’s white wine, I was lucky enough to spend some time with Bob Haas, a Chester, Vt., resident, who became the exclusive U.S. importer of Perrin wines through his company, Vineyard Brands.

Haas, who died in March at 90, was a pioneer importer, whose career in the wine business covered almost 70 years. He was largely responsible for introducing Rhone and Burgundy wines to this country in the 1950s, and he brought quality Spanish wines and some of the best early California producers to the attention of American customers. He, too, was a partner with the Perrins in the Tablas Creek Vineyard and winery in Paso Robles, Calif.

In addition, Bob Haas was a convivial and warm guy who was interesting and engaging, a man I enjoyed knowing.

The Perrin family also takes particular care in producing the line of Cotes du Rhone Reserve wines; after all, their name is prominent on the label.

It’s a terrific brand, one that also comes in white and rosé in Vermont outlets. Only the red is currently widely available in New Hampshire. Check them out.

Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at raiseyourglassofwine@gmail.com.

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