Famille Perrin’s Les Conruds ($21.24)
Find it in the France Section

The Syrah grape makes wine the length of the Rhône in France.  It’s best from the northern reaches where, on steep river banks it can create truly magnificent wines that have notes of blackberry, blueberry, black olive, even bacon fat and can have beguiling violet aromas.

Those are the famed wines of Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie. They can be astonishing and are priced to be completely out of reach for we regular janes and joes.  Farther south, Syrah is featured as the muscle in millions of gallons of “Côtes du Rhône” wines, and has a bit part in some Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Known as Shiraz in Australia, it is baked within an inch of its life to produce a sort of cartoon version of the wine of the Avignon Popes. Cooler climate Syrah from North America can be very good.

The Perrins make a wide range of wines from the ordinary to the grand.  They don’t make anything truly awful.  Their Les Conruds from the area of Vinsobres is pitched as, being from vineyards halfway up the valley, a sort of northern expression of Syrah from the south.  Nah, it’s really a southern style Côtes du Rhône, 50/50 Syrah and Grenache.

It does have a lighter touch than many Syrahs of the south, but still suffers from being, at 14.5% alcohol, a bit “high” (why they don’t ease the brake on the booze is a mystery) and demands being decanted for at least an hour before drinking. Still a bargain at the price.  It shows thyme and rosemary, and can tackle big meat flavours.  While it is ready to drink now, it will improve in a poor man’s cellar for another eight years.

J.Moreau & Fils Vouvray Demi-Sec ($18.09)
Find it in the the France Section

The J.Moreau & Fils Vouvray Demi-Sec has delicate, appealing aromas not unlike mock orange or honeysuckle. It has a cute tang mediated by a light butteriness. The alcohol at 11% is just right.

By no means a top example, but a wonderfully affordable introduction to Vouvray and French-grown Chenin Blanc, of which this wine is 100% composed.  It has distinct pear flavours and a judicious sweetness (the demi-sec part) that will bring honey to mind.

This stuff doesn’t need food to reveal itself, but can work well, as few wines do, with some Chinese flavours like hoisin or char siu, even “sweet and sour.” It was great with a roast chicken.  This is one you must try.