Sunday, March 10, 2013

Two wines to drink now

I recently sampled some excellent, pocketbook-friendly wines I want to share: one rose and one red, both made with the varietal grenache noir.  I love this varietal for several reasons.  It is a component of one of my favorite styles of wine, Cotes du Rhone, a lovely, light, silky red that is spicy, fruity and soft.  The grenache grape also lends itself well to pale, lovely roses, especially those produced in the Provence region of France.  Provence tends to yield wines that are distinctive for their light, herbaceous and floral qualities.  Those roses, in my mind, are among the most delicious and elegant roses available.

You might think grenache has no backbone because as a stand-alone grape, it tends to lack color, tannins and acidity.  But grenache plays well with others, and it adds body and fruit, which round out other varietals in a blend.  The schist and granite soils that grenache thrives in also add a pleasing minerality, which provides depth and a smooth finish.  That minerality also makes grenache-based wines extremely food friendly.

In Central Texas, we are just about to turn the corner and get smacked upside the head with warm weather.  For my friends in parts north and east, there are still many inches of snow to go before a typically muddy spring arrives.  So for my Texas friends, drink the reds while you still can; the rose will carry you through the early summer, since by the time we are limp with heat exhaustion in July, you'll want a rose with a little extra fruity sweetness to quell the heat.  For my Yankee friends, buy a case of the red and quaff away.  You might be ready for the rose about June.

Photo credit: Martin Poole; CNN eatocracy

Commanderie de la Bargemone 2010 (France) offers classic aromas of wild strawberries and red currants, with a light, floral character and a crisp, bone-dry palate.  This wine is pale and apricot-colored in the glass and the nose is floral with fresh cut roses, orange blossom and strawberry.  The fruit is at first crisp and sharp, then melts into a structured softness bracketed by a soft minerality balanced by a nice amount of acid.  This is an elegant, structured wine and it amazes me that it cost only about $15 at your local Spec's.

Photo from Cellar Tracker
This wine pairs perfectly with a bouillabaisse, a classic, traditional seafood stew of Provence.  Try it with either Julia Child's recipe for Chicken Bouillabaisse which you can find reproduced by another blogger named Karen here (if you have the book Julia Child and Company, the original recipe is there on p.41) or with this seafood bouillabaisse recipe from the sadly now out-of-print Gourmet Magazine May of 2007 issue.  My favorite version is to make Julia's base without the chicken and sub seafood instead.  It's exquisitely lovely, perfumed with fennel, saffron and orange, and it melds with the rose very elegantly.  In any case, you should not miss out on making a lovely rouille, which adds even more depth and body to this already phenomenal dish.  Find Julia Child's recipe here, with another seafood bouillabaisse recipe as well from the same blogger mentioned previously.

The next wine, Domaine de Cabasse Cuvee Garnacho 2009 (France), made me fall in love with it on the first sip.  Rich, full of spices and fruit and beautifully aged in French oak, this wine has a seductive quality that made me want to drink it all up immediately.  Approximately $18 per bottle, Domaine de Cabasse is charming and opens beautifully.  Black cherry, leather, spice and nougat enchant while you sip.  This intensely garnet-colored Cotes-du-Rhone is superbly structured and very satisfying.  We enjoyed this wine with a braised beef and green olive dish served alongside oven-roasted potatoes.  It was a heavenly combination.  Find the recipe here

Happy sipping!


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