Monday, September 20, 2010

Enjoying Wine: Lessons from France (Part 1)

Recently, I spent some time in France. While I have been to the country before (once as a teenager, and again with a teenager in tow), this was the first time I really got to enjoy its wine culture.

And I loved it.

What follows are some observations of how drinking French wine in situ has changed my thinking.

The pleasures of a chilled Cabernet Franc... Our first lunch was at a lovely bistro in the 1st arrondissement, Restaurant Paul. (photo of the restaurant, above, from allaboutnice) We'd traveled for 20 hours, taken a brief nap, and then walked from the Marais down along the river to this wonderful restaurant. There, we had typical bistro fare (I had some wonderful lamb) and a bottle of 2007 Couly-Dutheil Chinon La Diligence from the Loire. (available in the US for around $21) It was served very will chilled--colder than most whites are served in France--with condensation beading up on the outside. Inside was a refreshing red with autumnal currant, leaf, and green pepper aromas and flavors. The entire experience was relaxing, unfussy, and unpretentious. Lesson learned: temperature matters--but you should experiment until you find what works for a particular wine, food, setting, and your own palate.

Excellent, affordable wine can be found on most wine lists... Many people imagine that purchasing wine at French restaurants will be a daunting business, and expensive, too. That's not what we discovered when we had dinner at Le Violon d'Ingres in the 7th arrondissement. Yes, there were white table cloths and attentive waitstaff. There was excellent food, like roasted pigeon and the most amazing egg dish I've ever tasted that involved a poached egg inside a crusted shell with truffles. There were treasures to be found on their wine list, too. A restaurant always endears themself to me when they are serving good Champagne by the glass--as in Taittinger Brut Prestige--which we had with our first courses. Then we moved on to the 2008 Domaine Chanzy Mercurey 1er Cru Les Carabys--which cost less than €40. This lovely, layered wine had fruity apple and lemon aromas and flavors laced with nutmeg and oak. It was both bright and rich, and paired with a variety of food. Lesson learned: just because you're in France doesn't mean you have to order the most expensive thing on the wine list in order to be happy. Try something that expands your wine knowledge rather than deflating your checking account.

Rosé, Rosé, Rosé... What's not to like about this? Everywhere you looked, someone was sipping rosé. We had a wonderful rosé recommended by the local wine shop, the 2009 Château Minuty Côtes de Provence Reserve. (available in the US for around $25) The blend includes Grenache, Tibouren (new to me!), Cinsault, and Syrah and is pale salmon in color. The wine was quite dry, with aromas and flavors of frais de bois, yet the overall impression was rich and full. We also sipped a 2009 Domaine de l'Olivette Bandol Rosé at lunch at Les Editeurs in the 6th arrondissement while we munched on salads and sandwiches This fresh, savory wine was also pale salmon in color with subdued strawberry fruit and a slightly saline note. Lesson learned: if the French are drinking this wine morning, noon, and night it can't be THAT unsophisticated. Get over any lingering rosé complex now, and stop apologizing to friends for serving it.

To be continued...


Jennifurla said...

Enjoying your blog said...

I guess one of the pleasure in France is to order local wines... I guess in your case (i.e Paris), closest local wines means Champagne, Burgundy and Loire ;)
Bottle Deck

delrio80 said...

Great Blogg and I envy your experience in France. I have to say that a lot of Americans dont appreciate Rose wines as much as they should. Its a great wine thats very versatile for a variety of occasions.