Last night was Pinot Noir night at my table. I had several at the ready but my wife couldn’t or wouldn’t decide which one she would like. Then she suggested I open two of them, serve them side-by-side so she could compare. She has an excellent palate, so we engage in this kind of exercise every once in a while. She was not to know which wine was in which glass.
My two choices were of the same vintage and in the same price range. One was by Kudos from the Willamette Valley, the other a d’Autrefois from the Pays d’Oc. Both were served at approximately 57 degrees Farenheit. In the glass, they looked exactly alike. Throughout dinner, she kept a running commentary as she alternated from glass to glass, all comments quite positive.
This is a drill I recommend not only for beginners just learning about wine but also for seasoned professionals, as judgments will vary when sipping with a meal as opposed in a lab or a winery tasting room. It helps keep the palate, the brain, and the memory in sync.
She found the Oregon somewhat “richer” and somewhat more layered, the French somewhat “lighter” and more delicate. Both, she observed, finished long. D’Autrefois, she thought seemed at its best when sampled immediately after a bite of the pan-fried salmon filet, the Kudos when there had been an interval between bites and sips.
In the end, she was an enthusiastic fan of both Pinots but indicated a slight preference for the French. My own conclusion, biased considerably by knowing which wine was in which glass, was that I have not been paying enough attention to the wines of Oregon, an established second home for the Burgundy Pinots and by recognizing that even in the Mediterranean warmth, skilled producers can give us a mighty good Pinot at a reasonable price.
After making a difficult trek many years ago up the steep coastal hills of Bandol — referred to as terraces or restanques by the wine people — to a small winery, I learned two things. First that when God was creating the earth, He was nearing the end of His task at that part of the Mediterranean that washes what is today’s Provence. His toils had made Him so weary that when He took the sack off His shoulders that contained rocks and soil, the sack broke free and dribbled heavy, solid rocks all down the slopes to the sea. Today that area from Cassis to Bandol is one of the rockiest coastlines in France.
The second thing I learned was that the wines of Bandol are very fine indeed, considered by many to be the most serious of Provencal wines. That serious reputation makes them among the costliest of the region. The reds, primarily Syrah and Grenache have longevity and complexity. The whites seldom leave the area.
Today, however, my focus is on the rose. I don’t find it often, but this summer, in my quest for roses, I bought a few bottles of the 2015 “Le Pont” rose produced by Ravoires & Fils, a relative newcomer to the region with holdings also in the Rhone Valley. At $19.99 it gave my budget a chance to enjoy a Bandol, something I had missed for almost a decade. Its sunny disposition and delicate fruitiness transported me to the rocky restanques and the picturesque port beneath them. It is a happy blend of Mouvedre, Grenache, and Cinsault, grapes that love the rocks.
The rocks that God lost have blessed Bandol and its neighbors many times over.
Every once in a while I move around the books on one of my shelves and re-discover something I knew I had to keep but which I forgot I had and which I seldom looked at. This weekend it was Le Carnet Gourmand du Vignoble Francais, subtitled Les Coups de Coeur de 50 Chefs de Renom. Only in France, I thought, as I dusted it off and began to leaf through it.
As the title suggests, it is a “memory book” of wines most beloved by 50 of the most famous chefs in France. It was given to me in 1992 by Georges Blanc, a celebrated three-Michelin-star cook who had written the book’s preface. Each of the 50 chefs is allocated two pages, one of which includes a photo-portrait and a description of the cuisine offered in his or her restaurant, the other a description of four of his favorite wines to include a copy of the label.
The 50 come from every wine region in France and their wine choices represent their favorites from their own region. There is a well-illustrated map of each region preceding the section describing its restaurants and wines. Throughout the early 1990s I considered it a valuable resource. I was working in France and traveled extensively around the country.
After moving back to Indiana in the winter of 1995, I put the book aside and seldom looked at it, though as I began traveling around the USA, I began to wish I could have such a resource dealing with restaurants and wines of the USA. In serious wine country along the West Coast, tourism offices often produce brochures or even small booklets identifying places to eat and wineries to visit, but I never saw anything as comprehensive as this 250-page book published by Editions JULIEN.
I know there are few restaurants in America which trace their roots past several generations and which tie themselves specifically to a regional cuisine that enhances the wines surrounding them, but even so, a listing of available wine and food along our Interstate interchanges might be of interest and even helpful to those making cross-country car trips.
This book is now refreshing my gourmet French and filling me with nostalgia, because I knew personally 18 of the 50 and most of the wines so rfevered by all of them.OLDER POSTS »