Sips: Out to dinner in the south of France, where the wines (and the prices) are refreshing

Last night with friends, we had a nice meal at Restaurant La Grange in Bize Minervois in France’s Languedoc region. Almost all the wines on the list were from the list were from Minervois, so they didn’t have to travel more than a few miles from vineyard to table. Even so, I was struck by the prices. They were downright cheap. A very good bottle of rosé, Domaine Sainte Leocadie’s 2011 “Leukadios” Minervois, a blend of syrah and grenache, was just 13 euros, or about $16 or so. A red Minervois was 16 euros, or about $20. Remember, this is at a restaurant. Yes, I know that the wines are local and that the dollar is stronger than it’s been in years. But the good folks at Restaurant La Grange are doing something very right, it seems to me, by not marking up their wines excessively. At these prices, we were definitely going to order two bottles of wine and, beyond that, will keep the restaurant in mind for the next time we’re in the region. For me, wines are an essential part of a good meal, and it’s nice, for a change, to be in a place where they are reasonably priced. “Usually here you would double it,” one of our friends said of the markup from retail. “Most people know the prices of retail and would feel ripped off if they tripled it.” A good meal with some good-value wines left us with a feeling of goodwill. Perhaps from a little village in southern France there’s a small lesson for restaurants back home.