Friday, June 16, 2006

French Wines…Mais Oui!

Admit it: you have issues. You want to experiment with new things, but you just end up falling back on routine. You swear by your taste for the exotic, but so often revert to the familiar. Last week, you almost ordered the braised pig cheek, but you got the pan-seared salmon yet again. You had every intention of pouncing on that foreign exchange student who tutored you in French sophomore year, but ended each late-night study session with a prim, “au revoir, Jean-Pierre.”

Well, my risk-averse friend, now is the time. You’re busting loose. While I hope I’ve inspired you to overhaul your lifestyle choices in a big way, all I ask of you now is a simple expanding of the palate. Make your first brazen act as a windmill-chasing, marrow-sucking dilettante a feat of culinary daring. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is: embrace the froggies!

Wine Warehouse in Fort Lauderdale. Lock me in there with a corkscrew and some Brie anytime.

Well, not literal froggies—just their wine. My husband and I love wine. My alcoholic beverage of choice is, in fact, a glass of red wine. Unless I’m lying on a beach in Cozumel, in which case it’s Corona. Or grilling fajitas, in which case I’ve got to have one of Mike’s margaritas. You see there are exceptions to the rule, here, but the point is I love wine. In the last couple of years, Mike and I have grown to appreciate and often prefer French wine. We never had a taste for the apples-fermented-in-butter with a touch of burnt vanilla flavor of typical California Chardonnays. We get turned off by the homogenously overpowering ripe fruits of Australian Shiraz. A Pinot Noir from Oregon can be cool and subtle, but if you really want to taste the ground beneath your feet, go to Burgundy’s rendition of the grape.

And that brings us to the Voarick Aloxe Corton 2003 (retail $24.99) that we tasted at our favorite wine store this past weekend, along with several other French imports. Just know that Burgundy is where pinot noir is grown, and it is deep, earthy stuff. The soil in the different districts of Burgundy varies, so there is plenty of diversity among Pinot Noirs. Chardonnay is the other grape varietal grown in Burgundy, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The Aloxe-Corton would be lovely with olive-crusted lamp chops or braised duck.

My other favorite region for red wines is the Rhone. I have had the most experience with Cotes Du Rhone, as these incredibly food-friendly blends always seem to be available at a great price, as in $8-$12. You just don’t have to spend more. There are over 10,000 producers in this large region and the primary grape varietals are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault. Many producers, and not just French ones, do 2 or even 3 bottlings each year, from grapes culled from the same vineyard. The high end bottle is the crème de la crème. The low end bottle benefits from all the same skill and methodology of that same producer, but might consist of slightly less pristine grapes and lack the complexity of the high end bottle. The low end bottles are generally a fantastic value. The first wine on the left is a 2004 Cotes Du Rhone from Chapoutier. Drink a not- too-fruity, not-too-earthy gem like this with anything from pizza to roast chicken. Bring it to a cookout, and your hot dogs just got classy. Interesting aside about the Chapoutier: the label is in Braille…who says the French can’t be progressive?

It’s me checking out the nifty wine-pairing wheel they gave us at the tasting. Each type of food has at least four different suggestions—so drink what you like!

Between trips to the snack table to eat more than our fair share of baked brie, we also tasted some zippy French whites. The one that most bears mentioning is another Mingling favorite, Pouilly Fuisse. The bottle pictured below on the right, was a 2004 from Gerbeaux.

Pouilly Fuisse, also from Burgundy, is what the French did with the Chardonnay grape long before anyone ever heard of Napa Valley, much less turned it into Disneyland for wine-lovers. Pouilly Fuisse has the full body of a California Chard without any of the cloying richness. A good one will retain its acidity, foiling the buttery quality of dishes like lobster tail or tuna sashimi. It will highlight your food instead of overpowering it with oak.

I could go on, perhaps discussing Alsace, the source of some of my favorite food-friendly whites, but that’s a whole other post. I didn’t even mention Bordeaux, home of fabulous Merlot and Cabernet varietals. I also might be treading on some thin ice, as I am but a neophyte in the wine world, although an enthusiastic one. I may not know everything about wine, but I know it’s time to give France a try! For food pairing, they can’t be beaten. It’s either that or look up Jean-Pierre…


Maureen said...

I just found your blog and I love it! By your posts, I can tell we have a lot in common. I love wine, as well and tend to have a glass (or 2 ;) ) every night.
Beautiful blog.

PS- I also love, love Ft. Lauderdale. I used to go every year to visit a friend. I'm trying to talk my fiance into moving there!

Wine Experience Australia said...

Fenach and Australian wines are close to perfection!