2001 La Gauphine Viognier, Vin de Pays d’Oc

A French Viognier for about $10? I was skeptical. “Probably comes from a big producer,” I thought, “and certainly not from anywhere near Condrieu,” that being the town in the northern Rhone most identified with this glorious but fickle white grape.

I was wrong on the first count, right on the second. Planting Rhone varietals is as fashionable in France as it is in California. La Gauphine, in fact, is a small estate near the Saint Chinian region of the Languedoc.

What’s more important is how Viognier performs there. Pale green gold in color, this aromatic white wine gives off scents of ripe peaches, apricots and something vaguely tropical. It’s not bone-dry, so it tastes very round and ripe, like peach skin squirted with a little citrus. Keep a bottle in the fridge for unexpected company.



Quick swirl

Region: Southern France

Price: About $10.

Style: Aromatic and ripe.

Food it goes with: Mussels, soups, asparagus risotto, vegetable terrines.

Where you’ll find it: Lazy Acres Market in Santa Barbara, (805) 564-4410; Mission Wines in Pasadena, (626) 403-9463; and Wine Street in Carlsbad, (760) 431-8455.