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Southern Rhones

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Southern Rhones

When it comes to red wine in the northern appellations of France's Rhone wine region, solo syrah rules. Farther south, grenache takes the lead and is typically blended with syrah and mourvedre, as well as cinsault and carignan. The result is an easy-drinking, fruit-forward wine with food-friendly acidity, perfect for the cooler fall weather and the hearty meals of the season. Here are the panel's top Southern Rhone picks:

2010 Chateau de Segries Lirac, $23

Lirac is a small appellation bordered by the rose-producing region of Tavel. The de Segries offers smoky blueberry, soft oak and fresh basil on the nose. The palate is a rich mix of dark cherry, bramble berry and ripe plum flavors with hints of black pepper and anise. Toast and smooth tannins come through on the finish.

2012 Ogier Cotes-du-Rhone Heritages, $13.99

This entry-level red from a top Chateauneuf-du-Pape house opens with subtle-but-complex aromas of berries, rose petals, dried herbs, cedar, oak and a touch of cigar. It's a well-balanced wine with a tangy core of cherry colored by mocha and spice, and a sweet floral finish. This wine is a definite best buy.

2009 E. Guigal Gigondas, $31

In the hands of a masterful domaine like Guigal, Gigondas can produce wines of both power and finesse, but such quality comes at a price. Here, the wine's cherry liqueur aromas are backed by earthy touches of hickory and licorice. Creamy red fruit flavors dominate, marked by smooth tannins and a long silky finish. This wine will improve with time in the bottle. If you're drinking it now, you'll want to decant.

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