I Love French Wine and Food - A Red Côtes du Rhône
Among France’s eleven wine-growing regions the Rhône Valley ranks second in acreage. The region extends 125 miles (200 kilometers) along the Rhône River. This region is actually composed of two parts, the north and the south whose wines tend to be quite different. The northern Rhône Valley is quite narrow. The major red grape variety is Syrah, while the major white variety is Viognier. The southern Rhône Valley produces about 95% of the Rhône Valley wines. This is the kingdom of grape blending. For example the famous Châteauneuf-Du-Pape AOC wine may be made from up to thirteen different grape varieties. The better wines are clearly defined as coming from the northern or the southern part of the Rhône valley. We will be reviewing some of these wines in later articles.
The site of Avignon was probably settled by the Celts. It was a flourishing city in the time of the Ancient Romans. But it is best known as the home of seven popes between 1309 and 1377. Who would have thought that when Pope Clement V chose this southern French city for the site of his Papacy, it was ruled by the King of Sicily, albeit through the house of Anjou, in the opposite corner of France? Avignon and the surrounding area remained more or less papal property until the French Revolution. The major tourist site is the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace), which unfortunately is missing many of its original furnishings. But there is a lot more to see including several churches and museums, the beautiful hilltop garden Rocher des Doms (Rock of the Domes), the opera house, the Clocktower Square, and of course the Pont-St.-Bénézet (St.-Bénézet Bridge) made famous by a children’s song Sur le pont d’Avignon (On the Avignon bridge). Parts of this bridge are said to date back to the Twelfth Century. And you’re only a little more than ten miles (less than twenty kilometers) from the village of Châteauneuf-Du-Pape.
Before reviewing the Côtes du Rhône wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Fois Gras de Canard (Duck Liver Pâté).
For your second course savor Caillette (Pork-Liver Meat Loaf).
And as dessert indulge yourself with Sorbet (Sherbert) and fresh fruit.
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Réserve Perrin Côtes du Rhône P2004 13% about $12
Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Roaming Rhône. This wine will transport you to the South of France. Five generations of Perrin winemaking culminate here as you breathe in aromas of candied cherries, plum, spice, and earthy tones. There’s volumes of juicy cherry flavors surrounded by good ripe tannins on the medium-bodied palate. Gourmets can savor it with chicken or lamb tajine.
Most of the wines that we have reviewed are made from a single grape variety. This wine, like most of the wines in the southern Rhône Valley, is a blend, in this case 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, and 10% Cinsault.
My first meal consisted of rib steak and fried potatoes. The steak was marinated in a homemade ketchup and horseradish mustard sauce. By accident too much mustard fell into the sauce, but I didn’t want to throw it out and start over again. No problem, this wine rose to the challenge easily and wasn’t in the least overwhelmed by all that horseradish. I still tasted dark fruits and spices.
My next meal involved slow cooked ribs and potatoes. The wine was very round and full. While it wasn’t complex it was quite pleasant. In addition to the above components I tasted a bit of tar. When the food was gone the wine tasted peppery. I liked it.
Once again I went to beef, this time a slow cooked beef stew. The wine was a bit chewy. It was powerful and mouth-filling.
The first cheese was a French Saint-Aubin, a soft cow’s milk cheese traditionally packed in a wooden box. This cheese has a creamy brie-like texture and a stronger taste. Unlike many other wines, this Côtes du Rhône retained its fruit when paired with the Saint-Aubin.
I next tried the wine with an Italian Bel Paese, a mild buttery cheese suggested to accompany fruity wines or to be eaten alone as a snack or a dessert. This combination was even better; the wine became rounder. There was a little wine left in the bottle. Instead of slicing off a bit more cheese, I tried it with a slice of mint chocolate cake. Unfortunately the combination was no success, the cake denatured the wine a bit. But, as always, I don’t blame a wine for an unorthodox pairing choice that turns out to be a mistake.
Final verdict. This wine is a definite winner, especially when you consider its price. I’ll be buying it again, but not before tasting several other wines from both the north and the south of the Rhône Valley.
Levi Reiss has authored alone or with a co-author ten computer and Internet books, but to tell the truth, he would really rather just drink fine French, German, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink what he wants, in moderation. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel, wine, and food website www.travelitalytravel.com and his global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com.