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I Love French Wine and Food - A Red Cotes du Rhone
If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Rhone Valley region of southeastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local red Cotes du Rhone.
Among France's eleven wine-growing regions the Rhone Valley ranks number two in vineyard acreage. The region extends 125 miles (200 kilometers) along the Rhone River. This region is actually composed of two parts, the north and the south whose wines tend to be quite different. The northern Rhone Valley is quite narrow. The predominant red grape is Syrah, and the most important white grape is Viognier. The southern Rhone Valley produces about 95% of the Rhone Valley wines. This region strongly believes in blending grapes in their wines. 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 Rhone valley. We will be reviewing some of these wines in later articles.
Historians believe that Avignon was originally 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.-Benezet (St.-Benezet 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 Cotes du Rhone 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 Pate). 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.
Wine Reviewed Reserve Perrin Cotes du Rhone P2004 13% about $12
Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. Roaming Rhone. 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 Rhone Valley, is a blend, in this case 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 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. I found the wine full and very round. 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 Cotes du Rhone 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. Only a few precious sips remained 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 you may know, I do not blame a wine for my unusual unorthodox food pairing attempts that come up short.
Final verdict. I found this wine to be a real winner, especially in light of its moderate price. I'll be buying it again, but not before tasting several other wines from both the north and the south of the Rhone Valley.
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