The name may be long (thanks to the French appellation authorities) but the flavors are direct and delicious in this rosé from the south of France: raspberry and melon, with hints of spice. The occasion was a Memorial Day barbecue chez Marcus, and my colleague Bruce Sanderson was planning to pour some aged Chablis and red Burgundies for the main meal. But that was a ways off, as the food preparations were still going full speed in the kitchen, and it was time for a fresh-tasting rosé to launch the day's festivities.
Domaine La Croix Belle is located in the Languedoc, between the cities of Béziers and Pézenas. Don't let the Vin de Pays designation fool you into thinking this is a lesser wine. I have tasted many full-flavored whites, reds and rosés from this region. You may not see it often anymore on a label as many vintners across the south of France are beginning to opt for the simpler Languedoc moniker on wines from lesser-known districts such as the Côtes de Thongue.
This blend of Syrah and Grenache was made in large stainless-steel vats to preserve the fresh fruit flavors. The grapes are grown in a mix of clay, limestone and gravelly soils near the medieval village of Puissalicon. The result is a very dry and firm-tasting rosé, balanced with plenty of honest fruit flavors. It's ideal as an aperitif or for sipping on a warm day under a strong sun. I rated it 88 points, non-blind, and it's a deal at $15 a bottle.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Domaine La Croix Belle Grenache-Syrah Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thongue Rosé Le Champ des Grillons 2008 (88, $15).