26 March 2011

Grès Saint Paul

Still noting that there was too much emptiness on the drink-right-now side of our wine cellar...really just an afterthought in the crawlspace where the pool pump is located...we decided to go tasting...really drinking as we are not known for spitting after tasting...at the nearby Grès Saint Paul in Lunel. 

The Domaine has been in the same family since 1830.  The current owner is the seventh generation to work this land.  Grès Saint-Paul produces wine with two appellations d'origine contrôlée - AOC Coteaux du Languedoc and AOC Muscat de Lunel.  To receive a certification of AOC in a region, the Domaine must send samples each year for an analysis to ensure that the vitner has adhered to the  strict production rules of the AOC.  

For example in the case of an AOC Coteaux du Languedoc red wine, the grapes must be produced in a strictly defined geographical area giving a taste of that terroir or geologic and mineral region.  The cepage or mix of grapes must be - in this case - Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  The yield is limited to 50 hectoliters per hectare...about 1,320 US gallons to 2.5 acres.  In addition to these already very stringent guidelines, there are rules guiding the planting of vines and so on.

So after tasting the strictly produced reds and rosés, we paused ...And there we found Lolita...beautifully pétillant Lolita. A demi-sec muscat that uses the naturally occurring sugar and a cool stabilization at 7°C over 24 hours to slowly ferment into gentle bubbles. Tasting of the grape, but not truly sweet, the Lolita had only 10.5% alcohol. The vintners slow the fermentation by chilling it further which preserves the flavor but keeps it from becoming too high in alcohol or losing the taste of the muscat grape. Perfect for an afternoon apéritif.  I look forward to sipping the Lolita on a lazy hot afternoon...come on by for a taste!!  There is always an extra glass at hand!!

21 March 2011

Isle Sur La Sorgue

Spending a leisurely day strolling through Isle Sur La Sorgue is always a pleasure. Although this trip we forgot that the primary antiquing days are Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Completely different than a normal touristy French town which generally prefers the Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Closed on Monday schedule. Mike supposes that this is to enable the owners to be profitably employed elsewhere in order to support their hobby businesses.

At our favorite lunch spot I enjoyed a menu of simply perfect lentil soup followed by a plate of lotte served with a beautiful ciboulette sauce. Mike chose the saucisson lyonnaise wrapped in a bit of pastry crust accompanied by a salad and followed by an ambitiously sized faux filet and a plate of the best home style frites. Mike had to fight hard to keep all of the fingers at the table from stealing all his fries!

One of the many antique shops.  They are like walking through a museum.

Au Chineur...Our favorite restaurant. 

Notre Dame des Anges is a beautiful baroque style church

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15 March 2011

Wine Tasting at Terrebrune

At the Grand Tasting in Paris at the Louvre in December, we tasted the wines from Terrebrune. In fact, we found them to be so notable that we decided to have them with our plates of charcuterie at lunch.

Last weekend, we drove over to Terrebrune to reacquaint ourselves with their fine wines. After meandering for quite a while on a small road alongside the A50 in the town of Ollioules near Toulon, we found the domaine quite humbly tucked in amongst some rather ordinary homes. Not quite the grand domaine we had pictured.

Terrebrune is located in the A.O.C. Bandol which is known for its use of the temperamental Mourvèdre grape in its wines. Mourvèdre is a late season grape with lots of taste and tanins. For this former Californian, the wines of Bandol are familar with their bold big tastes.

Their reds are a mélange of 85% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache and 5% Cinsault. The rosé is 50% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache and 25% Cinsault.

According to the Official Website of the Wines of Bandol, "Mourvèdre is an upright bush vine that bears its stems with majesty. In time it forms a short stumpy trunk that will stand up to the mistral wind with vigour if carefully tended by the vine grower. Preference is given to “gobelet” pruning. This little-productive vine bears triangular bunches with small, tight, dark grapes. In other wine regions, it is used very sparingly because of the strength of its character. Nowhere else is Mourvèdre added in such proportions to the varietal mix. Bandol is the only appellation wine in which Mourvèdre is the dominant grape variety: it represents at least 50% of the blend in red wines. As fans of Mourvèdre, the Bandol wine growers take up the challenge and often go beyond this limit, adding up to 80 or even 95% of it to the mix. Whereas the authorised yield is 40 hectolitres per hectare, the wine growers do their best to control the productivity of Mourvèdre and keep it within lower yields (25 to 30 hl), so as to express its essence."

According to our extremely friendly and informative guide...the receptionist who had to break off every minute or so to run for the phone...The domaine generally produces around 100 000 bottles of wine a year. One vine will produce about one bottle of wine because they cull the vines to encourage the grapes to have lots of robust flavor.

Their white wines were not yet available to taste as the samples had just been sent to the Bandol A.O.C. for tasting in order to get the required A.O.C. certification. We were sorely disappointed as this was our main reason for making the trek. Our cave was lacking the normal summer levels of white wine choices and we had been hoping to make a huge step towards increasing our afternoon beverage supplies.

We were able to taste the 1993, 2006 and 2003 rosés. Due to the strength of the Mourvèdre, the Bandol rosés are able to be held and aged for up to 10 years which is very unusual. We normally drink all the rosé wine by the end of the summer to avoid letting the lighter flavors of our Languedoc rosés die out with the shorter days. With these rosés, we will have to retrain our natural tendencies to drink the pale wines before the year is up!!

We went home with our taste buds happy and the trunk full of some really nice wine! Nathan was especially happy to buy a 1993 to drink on his 18th birthday this year! We will be returning in May to pick up our order of white wine just in time for our poolside parties this summer!!