New World Rhone Blends 

Some of my favorite reds come from France's southern Rhone Valley where blending is the rule. Grenache, syrah and mourvedre, to name a few, come together to make beautifully fruit-forward wines with excellent balance and structure. I've got nothing against syrah on its own, but I think it works best in a blend--the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. That trend is catching on throughout the wine world. Here are three New World wines that prove its merits.

2007 Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap, $9.99

A syrah-heavy wine (62 percent) from South Africa that is fleshed out by mourvedre and just a little viognier. There's a definite Old-World character to this red, with its brooding aromas of earth, game and tar melding with spicy dark fruits. It is a supple wine with an appealing core of bright cherry and berry fruit flavors. All in all, this wine is an exceptional bargain.

2007 Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre, $16.50

The first of two Aussie entries from the Barossa Valley, this wine offers a subtle but complex array of aromas with bing cherry, plum, cedar, earth and herb. It is nicely balanced with good concentration and appealing dark plum and red-berry fruit flavors. There's an enticing elegance to this otherwise opulent wine, with a finish that lingers nicely.

2008 Langmeil Three Gardens SGM, $16.99

A blend of syrah (45 percent), grenache (40 percent) and mourvedre (15 percent), also from Australia's Barossa Valley. Sweet cherry liqueur and licorice aromas dominate the nose of this wine, backed by touches of white pepper, rose petal and spice. Smooth and silky raspberry flavors coat the palate, which is nicely balanced by bright acidity. Smooth tannins come through on the long finish.

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