A Twist on a Classic

ImageShackThe Rhone Valley.

That’s all I have to say, it is a region that does not need a proper introduction. South of Burgundy, here is where we start to leave the Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Franc dominated reds and move into deeper Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre and Carignan.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the big stand out in this region, as well as the way to my heart. Of course such quality and recognition is also accompanied by a prestigious price. If you are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy this treat of a on a regular basis, then give me a call and we’ll start hanging out. To the rest of us, there are great alternatives within the Rhône without going into debt.

Côtes du Rhône is the most popular of these alternatives and is available at a great value. A typical bottle will range form $12 to $20. A Côtes du Rhône is, generally speaking, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and then sometimes Mouvedre and/or Carignan, but Grenache is the dominant force here. It’s centralized within the Rhône, displaying characteristics of the North and the South. Côtes du Rhône Villages are within Côtes du Rhône, but a bit more specific. French wine can never be simple; there always has to be a break down and then possibly two or three more after that.

I’m drinking a Côtes du Rhône Villages from Seguret, 2005 Domaine le Souverain. On the nose I have jammy flavors up front, but then spice evolves. The spice intrigues me though because it reminds me of mustard. Now I’m not talking about any kind of mustard, specifically the kind of mustard they put on hot dogs at baseball games. I’ll be honest; I’m not a huge hot dog fan. I usually reserve this for baseball games or Fourth of July festivities, but I could really go for one now. Interestingly enough the mustard flavor is on the palate as well. It starts off subtle, but then explodes with spice. It’s almost a bit too much. I would say to hold off on the 2005 for at least a year more. This wine has not quite reached its potential but you can taste bits and pieces. At least one more year of aging will give the wine the respect it deserves.

I’m not one for traditional wine pairing. I understand there is a basic formula out there. But I say break the rules. Every palate is different, so really what I enjoy about a wine could be completely different to what you may like about a wine. If you feel like having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with your wine, then do it. That actually sounds quite delicious. The only thing that matters is that you are enjoying what you are experiencing. It’s starting to get warmer out and I would definitely consider this wine for a barbeque.

A wine will take on different characteristic when paired with food. I tried this wine with a few different combinations. First I went more traditional with cheese, a Cousteron from the Loire. It has nutty flavors that add to this wine very nicely. Then I added hummus to the mix. Another delicious combination, you just can’t go wrong with hummus. But to prove that anything goes, I went for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As we all know this French delicacy is a fine pairing for juice boxes in, say, a My Little Pony or Smurfs lunch box. Being a kid at heart, I found this to be a winner. Break the rules and mix it up.

If you really didn’t dig this style of wine but are willing to give it another chance, then I would suggest trying an Australian Shiraz or Grenache. Even California is producing some interesting Mouvedre. You have the same grape varietals, but perhaps a different terroir will be more compatible. Expand your palate and try something different. If you have that favorite bottle that you just can’t part from, then don’t, but certainly try something different. The worst thing that could happen is you don’t like it, but ask yourself why. From that you might discover that you are really into wines from Argentina, Canada or even Greece. Just put down the Yellow Tail and explore. And remember to Wine Your Diet.

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