Chinon2One of the difficulties with deciphering French wine is a label that looks like this one. It’s old-fashioned, with nary a hint about what’s in the bottle. And what is a Chinon?

Even wine types who are moderately familiar with France are likely to be confused, because Chinon is just not that well known. It’s a red wine region in a part of France, the Loire, that is known for white wine if it’s known at all. So when someone sees this bottle in a store, it’s not surprising if they walk past.

Which would be a mistake. The Riviere ($8, purchased, available at Whole Foods) is fabulous cheap wine, and raises the question yet again of why we don’t see this kind of effort from California more often. The Rivere, made with cabernet franc, is a simple wine, but not insulting like so many of its West Coast brethren. Look for some red fruit, maybe a hint of violet, some sweet tannins, a little pepper, and enough acid to balance that odd combination. The wine, also, is not green or unripe in any way, which is often the case for cheap cabernet franc.

It’s red meat wine, but also easy enough if you want to drink it on its own. Highly recommended and almost certain to make the 2012 $10 Hall of Fame.

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