Following the Altitude 500 and La Vieille Ferme last week, I wanted to throw a third Cotes du Ventoux into the mix. Also made by the cooperative at Bedoin, Cuvee des Trois Messes Basses is another old favorite that I have bought and enjoyed off and on since the early 1980s. It has always been an enjoyable, albeit somewhat rustic, wine. Today, the latter adjective no longer applies. The cooperative has clearly invested in high-tech equipment while maintaining a traditional philosophy and steering away from international trends.
Compared to Altitude 500 and La Vieille Ferme, Cuvee des Trois Messes Basses has its own unique peppery personality, provided primarily by the Carignane grapes in the blend. (The cuvee is 50% Grenache, 30% Carignane, 20% Syrah, compared to 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah for Altitude 500 and a similar blend for LVF.) It's not the spicy pepper you expect from Grenache, nor the black peppercorn that sometimes comes from Syrah but a unique Carignane type of pepper that has a hint of lemon peel mixed in. It creates a nice tingle on the palate that makes this wine very enjoyable when it's young and useful for almost any meal--fish, vegetables, beef or chicken.
At $7.99 a bottle, Trois Messes Basses is priced halfway between La Vieille Ferme and Altitude 500. The Altutide 500 is clearly the superior wine of three, in my opinion, but in some ways I enjoy drinking the Trois Messes Basses even more. A fourth Ventoux choice, that I haven't tasted recently, is Domaine Font-Sane--always bursting with blueberries, Provencal herbs and purple flowers. For a small amount of money, it's possible to pack your cellar with pleasure simply by focusing on the wines of Ventoux, a modest but underrated appellation. It's important to remember, though, that while these wines are not shrinking violets, they are best consumed within about five years of the vintage. Considering how good they smell and taste, that's no problem at all.