A “Tour de France” All About WINE, not Bicycles!
By John R. Dunham
First organized in 1903, the 23-day long race runs throughout France from the Pyrenees to the Alps, with the finish line on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Along the way, I’d assume that the riders traverse many of the country’s 300 wine appellations.
In our wine tasting “tour” of French wine, we’ve found one thing is certain: Wine from France is as diverse as anywhere on the planet.
In this “Tour De France” feature, we’re exploring three very distinctive regions: Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley and the regions of Southwest France.
In a region encompassing 65 distinctive appellations and with over 275,000 acres of vineyards, one can also find a little bit of nearly everything being produced.
At a recent Bordeaux tasting, we focused on approachable and modern wines from the region that were not the traditional Bordeaux blends. Some standout unique wines included:
Chateau Fonfroide Rose (2016: $15). Made from 100 % Cabernet Franc grapes, this wine was pale orange in color with a fruity nose. It featured cherry, currant, and plum with a peppery finish.
This is a fruit forward wine with a nice character that will work well with dishes like roast pork.
Jaillance, Cuvee de L’Abbaye (NV: $16). This is a Cremant de Bordeaux made from Semillion and Blanc de Noirs grapes. While Bordeaux isn’t generally considered a source for sparkling wines, more and more houses are experimenting with them.
This wine was light golden in color with a thick, syrupy floral nose. There was a nice mousse on the palate, with peppery notes up front and a dry soft finish. It’s a fun wine to serve at a party helping to start interesting wine conversation!
Calvet Brut (3015: $17). Even more interesting was a rose Cremant de Bordeaux made mostly from Cabernet Franc. While we see Cab Franc sparklings in places like Pennsylvania in the United States, it is much less common in France.
This wine was salmon pink in color with a peachy and berry nose. On the palate, the wine was very fresh with some pear in the front, the bitter-sweetness of artichoke in the middle and a long finish.
Chateau La Moulinere Rose (2015: $13) is a rose of Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. Pinkish in color, the nose was floral with some celery notes. The wine was very fresh and clean up front with peach and bitter berries on the finish. I see this as a fruitier, crisper version of a Provence Rose which will work well with softer meats like pork or turkey.
Les Hauts de Smith Rose (2016: $17). A more traditional Bordeaux blend of 53 percent Cabernet, 35 percent Merlot and 12 percent Cabernet Franc, the wine is salmon to orange in color with a rosy floral nose. On the palate the wine is fresh and fruity with a lot of red-berry notes. The wine is a bit fruity for traditional rose dishes, and again I would pair with chicken, turkey or pork.
Wines from Southwest France
The heart of French wine production might just be from Southwest France.
We attended a trade luncheon in the Fall featuring a range of dishes paired with wine, prepared by the chefs at the restaurant Rebelle in the Lower East Side and paired with a dozen different wines from the Southwest — a region that is home to 43 different appellations which together produce darn near every grape imaginable.
The region is also the original home of some of the world’s most important varietals including both Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Many varietals produced in the region are grown nowhere else.
While it is impossible to cover all 12 of these wines in this quick “Tour de France,” it should be noted that all of the prices were $20 or less with some retail prices less than $10. Four wines of particular interest (and their pairings) were:
Domaine de Menard Colombard-Ugni Blanc (2016: $10). Golden straw yellow in color the nose of this wine was mineral with grapefruit pith On the palate the wine was quite dry with a floral finish and a vibrant acidity.
It was paired with strong cheese and duck prosciutto. Our host, Andre Compeyre, Southwest Wine Ambassador suggested that this crisp dry wine would pair well with salty foods.
Plaimont Les Vignes Retrovees, (2015: $18). Made from Gros Manseng, Petit Corubu and Arrufiac grapes the wine is light gold in color with a very light nose holding some fresh laundry notes.
This wine has a spice up front that holds across the palate.
It was paired with a rich cheese that brought forth sweet floral notes.
Plaimont 1907 (2012: $16). Made from Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the wine was a rich dark red with raspberry and cherry notes on the nose.The wine had good structure and acids with a fruity raspberry, plum (and vanilla) taste on the palate.
It was paired with carrots and mushrooms and really brought forth the earthiness from the vegetables.
Domaine Moureou (2014: $13). Another Tannat dominated wine (this one blended with 30 percent Cabernet Franc) this wine was purple in color with a clean light raspberry noted nose.
It was fruity up front, but the structure of the Tannat dominated the rear of the palate. The wine also had distinctive black pepper notes on the finish.
It paired beautifully with duck with the tannin from the Tannat mingling with the fat to bring out a sweetness.
There are 27 distinct regions in the Cote Du Rhone with over 86,800 acres planted in 21 different varietals. About 80% of Rhone wines are red, and the dominant grapes are Grenache noir and Syrah with Cinsault, Carignane.
Counoise and Mourvèdre grapes varieties also allowed in AOC labeled wines. Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne dominate the white varietals.
Wine reviewers have personal tastes, and I am personally not fond of Rhone red wines (it’s a personal preference, not a criticism of the wines).
Chateau Fontvert Luberon Blanc (2016: $17) A blend of 85 percent Vermentino and 15 percent Grenache Blanc, the wine is straw yellow in color with a nose that reminded me of ginger snaps.
On the palate, the wine was spicy up front with a hint of bit-o-honey candy. The wine notes suggested that this would be a good wine for seafood and lobster but I would suggest it more for chicken and turkey dishes.
Ogier & Fils – Côtes du Rhône Blanc (2016: $15). A blend of 6 different Rhone varietals, the wine was golden straw yellow in color.
On the nose, there was pear and sugar cane and the palate featured fresh florals with some Asian pear and sugary notes. This is a good wine for both fish or chicken or simply to drink by itself.
Cave de Tain Marsanne (2015: $14) This 100 percent Marsanne grape wine was pale yellow color with green hints. The nose was floral with white flowers and some raisin notes.
On the palate, the wine was very fresh with citrus, peach and apricot notes. This wine would pair well with shellfish, grilled fish or cream sauce based dishes.
The Tour de France bicycle race is done in stages. This review represents just three stage on our “Tour De France,”of wines, but it should show how versatile wines French wines can be.
For more information please visit:
For Wines of the Rhone Valley: http://www.rhone-wines.com/
For wines of Southwest France: www.winesofsouthwestfrance.com
For wines from Bordeaux: www.bordeaux.com