Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Take A Trip to France Without Leaving Town

Usually I’m a pretty simple guy who is more than willing to eat the local fare and enjoy local wines. I’m really not much into imported stuff. After all, it’s been pretty much proven that we here in the northwest produce wines just as good as any country or region on this great planet.

However, there are times when I just want to get away and try something different. It could have been the rains or the freezing frost outside on the ground the other night. But, for some reason I was really in the mood for a good Cotes Du Rhone. I went down into my closet and pulled out a good one.

Now, this may sound really fancy, but all it means is that the wine is from the Rhone “AOC” of France. “AOC” means the same as “AVA” in the U.S., which means that the wine is from a legally determined area that is determined by the government of that country.

When I say that I drank a Cotes Du Rhone it could mean red, rose’, or white. In this case, which is usually the case, I am speaking about a red wine.

What I love about Cotes Du Rhone red wines is that they are made out of some of my favorite grapes. The red grapes grown in the Rhone River region of France are primarily Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Cinsault. Fantastic grapes, bold and rich in color and texture, that finish smooth and velvety with fine light tannins. These grapes all produce juices that are deep ruby red in color.

The Cotes Du Rhone region is quite laid back. They are very relaxed in their business methods, as well as their cooperative farming lifestyles. Few wineries in the region actually produce wine from grape to bottle. That would be too much work. Most produce smaller lots and allow merchants to provide the marketing and distribution of their wines outside the winery. Only a few produce “mis en bouteille au domaine” which means bottled on premise.

The bottle that I enjoyed this evening was a Domaine de Couron. It is one of the larger vintners in the Rhone. Located at the Saint Marcel d’ Ardeche commune in Southeastern France, the wine is grown, picked, fermented, and bottled on site. It is 60% Grenache, and 40% Syrah.

Pouring the wine from the bottle, it comes out a deep ruby red into the glass. The nose is veggie and lightly sulfur initially, but turns into aromas of bing cherries. On the palate the wine opens with a combination of plums, cherries, and canned green beans. It finishes soft and round, with a slight lack of tannin.

Another Cote Du Rhone that I regularly enjoy is Pont D’ Avignon, a vintner that was recently purchased by the Gallo family. Very affordable, and very tasty, I suggest trying this wine when you want a soft, supple, red other than a Pinot Noir. Once again, not very sophisticated, but it is reasonably priced and a lot of fun. Both it, and the Couron, are priced in the under $15 range.

So, when you are tired of drinking the local stuff, I suggest you try a Cotes Du’ Rhone. There are several available locally. Give one a try!

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