Wines for a Snowy Day
I sat down to write a blog just now, with daffodils on my counter, the calendar almost in March, and intended to write about Spring wines to celebrate the new season. Then I looked out the window! Leaden grey skies and apocalypse warnings for Siberian weather for the next week or more, so instead, here are a few Wines for a Snowy Day.
Rhone wines come to mind when warmth and cocooning comfort are needed. Their spicy warmth, generous fruit and higher alcohol would warm the cockles of your heart. Ideal fodder for a duvet day.
Christophe and Cathy Bonfils at Domaine de Boissan, based in the little village of Sablet in the epicentre of the Cotes-du-Rhone Villages, make just such wines, from simple Cotes-du-, Rhone Villages via Sablet , Vacqueras and Côtes de Ventoux, up to their tour de force, Gigondas: made from Syrah and Grenache, it goes well with a hearty beef stew, roast of beef or a succulent steak. The game season should have passed by now!
A few kilometres away, near Avignon, is the famous appellation of Chateaneuf-du-Pape, where the Grenache and Syrah reign supreme along with up to another eleven varieties. Home of the Popes from 1309 to 1376, due to a dispute between the Papacy and the French court, Avignon has been left with spectacular buildings, palaces, museums and of course the famous “Pont d’Avignon” on which the locals may or may not have danced!
It is a good place to base yourself if touring in The Rhone delta, the Camargue, or indeed, the whole of Provence stretching away to the East. There are a plethora of hotels and restaurants to choose from and it is hard to avoid the aroma of lavender and rosemary emanating from all the souvenir shops. The Roman theatre in Orange, the Pont du Gard and other spectacular historical attractions are within easy reach. Beaches stretch all along the Mediterranean coastline and the wild white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos of the mysterious Camargue are but a short drive away. Through the middle of all this flows the mighty Rhone itself. Close by is Mont Ventoux, of Tour de France fame, and the Dentelles Du Midi, an imposing row of jagged teeth to the East. The fascinating walled towns of Arles, Aigues-Mortes and Sainte-Marie de la Mer are well worth a visit. On the way, you pass through the good value appellation of Costieres-de-Nimes.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape is much beloved by the Irish wine enthusiast. The family of Jerome Quiot have been at the forefront of the appellation (one of the first declared in France) for generations. They own some of the finest vineyards, with their famous “galets” or pudding stones terroir, which reflect back stored daytime heat onto the vines during the night. Their red Chateauneuf is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre and at 14.5% abv is guaranteed to cheer you up. However, don’t try it if you are about to drive on icy roads!
Most people forget that Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the other Rhone villages also produce some serious white wines. These may be based on typical varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Roussanne and Clairette. They are very full-bodied, nutty, sometimes waxy , with honeysuckle and herbal aromas, and always full of flavour. They match some of the biggest, richest fish or poultry dishes and are divine with anything to do with truffles. They also pair beautifully with the cooked Alpine cheeses such as Emmental, Gruyere or the now wildly popular Comte.
Rose of course is becoming more popular every day and the rich pink hues in this area compare with the delicate barely pink shades more prevalent as you venture into Provence and the Côte d’Azur. But we will leave Rose for our Spring chronicles. Whenever that might arrive!
By Monica Murphy