You guys know: I talk a lot about wine. It was my life for several years, and I take it pretty seriously.
I love talking about wine, I love writing wine, I love sipping wine, and eating with wine, and teaching people about wine.
But I was stumped when it came to how to talk about this amazing box of goodies that showed up on my doorstep. Wines from three of my favorite regions, plus brie and creamy French butter. It was like a Continental Christmas morning! I texted a friend to let him know he should swing by, because I had a bunch of French wines for him to enjoy (with us, of course).
“Bordeaux and Burgundy?” he responded back. And my heart fell a little.
Much like how people think Napa is the only place in California that makes wine, I fear that French wine has gotten stuck. Namely in the high dollar appellations of Bordeaux ($$$$$$∞) and Burgundy ($$$$).
And I beg you, I plead with you, and I implore you: this summer, go beyond your comfort zone and travel the beautiful hillsides of France with me. Discover new French summer wine!
Languedoc: Mas de Daumas Gassac
Languedoc-Rousillon is a region on the border of the Mediterranean. Imagine yourself in the South of France: blue water, a nice breeze, fields of limestone soil surround you. Breathe in and out and smell the sea air, which is mingling ever-so-gently with the nearby garrigue, or low vegetation of a hot-weather forest (generally, wild lavender, rosemary, and juniper).
Now imagine that bottled.
Both the red and rosé frizant (sparkling rosé) wines from Mas de Daumas Gassac are light and fruity, best enjoyed a bit chilled and with some stunning berries or red fruit. Just imagine a crispy baguette slice with melty Le Chatelain brie on top, and a dollop of strawberry jam. Yum, right?
One of the best rules of thumb to follow when pairing wine and food is to think geographically.
Since Mas de Daumas Gassac & the Languedoc-Rousillon region is by the sea, these sweet-ish wines will pair excellently with light fish or shellfish, but always be sure to include some fruits and veggies, too. Mas de Daumas Gassac’s grapes are grown in a scrub forest, and if you listen to your tastebuds, you’ll get hints of herbs and fragrant flowers, too.
“Riesling?” I hear you saying. “Isn’t Riesling a German wine?”
And thus begins our exploration of Alsace.
The Alsace region of France is on the border of Germany and because of wiggly lines and lots of Continental Conflict over the years, the wine of that region is highly influenced by German tradition.
In France, wines are frequently named after the appellations they’re grown in (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, to name a few), and are usually blended (a mix of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere is what makes up every Bordeaux wine released). German wines, on the other hand, are frequently single varietal– meaning there’s wine from only one type of grape in the bottle. Riesling is a type of grape, as is Pinot Gris (which is the same thing as Pinot Grigio from Italy, but that’s another post).
There are big, big differences between Alsatian Riesling and German Riesling– because of history, because of terroir (the characteristics of the growing region), because of cultural differences between German and French winemakers. There are thousands of different factors, but to put it bluntly: German Rieslings are fruitier and sweeter, while Alsatian Rieslings are more acidic and have higher alcohol.
And when the temperature rises, it’s time to turn to Alsace.
(Fun fact: it’s required by law that all wine made in Alsace is in those tall, skinny bottles.)
Oh, Provençal rosé. My love, my sweet, my heart. I sing your praises from the mountain tops! Or, more accurately, from my sun-drenched patio furniture. Where I’m nibbling on salty olives and sipping some gorgeous pink wine.
I’m sorry, but it’s true: girls wearing their Rosé All Day sweats out to brunch? I’m judging you harshly if the pink drink in your hand isn’t some beautiful, nuanced, stunning rosé from the south of France.
Where do we even begin with Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel?
It’s everything you love about a day on the shore– the flavor is tangy and citrusy, with a dry minerality that makes your mouth perk up. You can taste the beach here, and it lives in a coral pink bottle of wine. A blend of fruity Grenache, tangy Rolle, and the criminally under-seen (in America, at least), aromatic Cinsault. One of those wines you buy by the case, because you want it with every meal, and it makes a beautiful hostess gift, to boot.
I could go on and on about these stunning regions that make, maybe not the world’s best known, but some of the world’s best-tasting wines.
Are you ready to explore France this summer?