Top Trio

ore winemakers are blending different red grapes these days. The greatest blend is an old one: Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre grapes. Originating in the southern Rhone region of France, these three grapes were grown as a safety measure in case one or two of the grape varieties didn’t ripen well due to disease or poor weather.

Syrah lends intensity, elegance, and flavors of raspberry and black pepper. Grenache gives perfume, acidity, and flavors of camphor and eucalyptus. Mourvèdre provides backbone and color with flavors of roasted black fruits and meat. This vinous trinity represents some of the best values for red wine is are particularly suited for the winter table, especially with stews, slow braises and casseroles.

Le Grand Noir (Black Sheep) “GSM” France, 2007, $11This has more of a savory quality than most Côtes-du-Rhones, punctuated with flavors of plums and licorice. Drink with a stinky, mature goat cheese starter.

Jade Mountain, “La Provencale” California, 2006, $18A French style: no oak and ample acidity with wild fruit flavors and a hint of smoke and game. Try with chicken dressed with rosemary.

Domaine de la Terre Rouge, Tête-à-TêteSierra Foothills, California, 2005, $17Juicy but not jammy with bright flavors of raspberry and vermouth-like spice. Pretty enough to serve with fish, especially if prepared with olives and lemon.

John Duval, “Plexus”Barossa Valley, Australia, 2007, $35Refined aromas of blackberry and white pepper. On the palate the wine is at first reticent, but comes alive on the finish splaying spiced cherry, bergamot and Indian spice flavors. Terrific with grilled flank steak.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.