Medium to full bodied French red blends that provide good bang for your buck

Luke Richardson is a sommelier who has worked in a range of venues across the UK in a career spanning more than 20 years. In his column for SLTN he shares his thoughts on all things wine-related and answers your questions about wine. If you have a question for Luke email it to

Hello again all.

This time around, I thought I would talk about medium to full bodied French red blends that don’t necessarily break the bank but provide good bang for their buck – especially as it feels like autumn is fully here and winter is on its way!

I’ll start with a more medium bodied wine, Côtes du Rhône. This comes in many different guises and may be made from many different grapes, but in the southern Rhône the wines must be at least 40% grenache noir and at least 15% syrah or mourvedre – often both.

The main trick is to find a producer who is making a style of Côtes du Rhône Village that you like – in Rasteau or Cairanne for example, but instead of buying the more expensive Village wine, look for his Côtes du Rhône. This will essentially be a cheaper but similar example of their more expensive wine.

Expect to pay £8+VAT for a decent one. They are pleasant enough on their own, or great at lifting the rich heavy stews that come about at this time of year – even fairly good with game.

For something slightly more full bodied, look a little further south to Côtes de Ventoux – similar grape varieties but richer wines.

On the subject of game, some of the Languedocian wines are great with game – Faugères, Minervois, Corbières, St.Chinian and Fitou all make blends with roughly the same grape varieties as CDR above, but with more oomph and a bit less acidity.

There is also some Carignan thrown in too, especially in Corbières. The alcohol level can be slightly higher due to the average temperature being a little hotter than its Rhône cousins, and the wines often take on a somewhat herby nature in the finish – all the better for those rich game dishes and hearty stews! Prices range from c£7.50+VAT and up, with some being quite expensive. I personally feel that the region does well around the £10 mark.

Lastly, a little further south and east, right down to the border with Spain and into the Pyrenees you come across Côtes du Roussillon where Grenache reigns as king. The scorching sun here gets the Grenache to full ripeness and most of the land is organically farmed – not necessarily certificated, but it just always has been.

The wines are powerful, finely grained and can easily carry 14% ABV, but with a little bottle age and some chance to breathe once out they provide lots of rich red and purple fruits and a mineral quality which keeps them seeming elegant.

Right down on the Mediterranean border with Spain you have possibly the jewel in the crown, Collioure.

For your regular Côtes du Roussillon you would expect to pay around £8.50+ and maybe a couple of pounds more for a Collioure but the value they offer is still true and these hearty reds are the best way at keeping out these damp autumn winds that I have found so far!

Until next time, happy hunting!