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This is my one hundredth wine column for Bonjour Paris, and although prices have skyrocketed, it is still as much fun as when we first started together. For a wine lover, beginner or expert, it is now time for a seasonal, very pleasurable chore. Go to your wine retailer, and lay in a case of reasonably priced French wines that will go perfectly with your summer dinners. Make sure that they are good wines, and that you don’t spend over $125.00, taxes included.
Impossible? Not at all. This is the time for light wines, of recent vintages. Trotting out your treasured vintage bottle of Château Latour for a barbeque is like reading Dostoievsky at the beach! Now is the light time of year, for enjoyment of light, fruity wines that go particularly well with summer menus. Let’s find a dozen that you’ll enjoy.
White wines first.
Here on the Eastern Shore, I began the case with a bottle of 2006 Château de la Chasseloir, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur lie 2003 ($9.19). This is a flavorful Muscadet, just right to accompany crabs, either fresh from the traps or in the form of crabcakes. You may have been wondering about that sur lie designation. The Muscadet grape is not strongly flavored, and over the years, French winemakers have found that keeping contact with the crushed grapes and their skins and seed pips for a time during fermentation yields a more satisfying wine. They are right about that, so if you find a Muscadet without the sur lie designation, don’t buy it.
I was really pleased to find a nice bottle of Alsatian Sylvaner wine, the 2005 Sipp Mack Sylvaner Vielles Vignes ($12.79). I became very fond of Sylvaner, which is a light and flavorful wine, during my first trip to Alsace. Since then, I have rarely found it for sale in the United States. You’ll enjoy it very much with a light luncheon, and it won’t put you to sleep for the afternoon! Nicely chilled, it will be your new French wine discovery, for many wine fanciers have never tried it. You’ll like its dry quality and citrus notes. And so, although it is a bit pricey for this list, I think you’ll find the wine is worth it – if you are also lucky enough to find a fresh bottle of Sylvaner.
Then I saw some bottles of a family favorite, Monsieur Touton 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($7.79). This is a good quality Bordeaux white wine. You may sometimes make an even better bargain by finding magnums, at less than twice the cost of a single bottle. This wine is fresh and fruity, without the grassy taste that Sauvignon Blanc sometimes has, which I find objectionable. And as opposed to many oakey California wines, at just 11.5% alcohol, this is a delicious, light wine. With freshly steamed mahogany clams with garlic butter, it would be delicious.
The Château Fages, Graves de Vayre 2006 ($8.69) should also be refreshing. Here, you are moving into a traditional area for fine Bordeaux white wines, and an area that still is relatively unknown in our country. That goes up and down the quality scale. I remember finding with disbelief a bottle of Château Smith Haut Lafitte at a celebrated New Orleans restaurant some years back for $15. You would be lucky to find it at five times that price in a restaurant today! Also worth searching out, and similar in their flavorful appeal, are the wines of the Entre-Deux-Mers. I didn’t find any in this outing, but you may have better luck. They tend, in that region east of Bordeaux between the Gironde and Dordogne Rivers, to be dry and refreshing wines, with some heft to them. This would be a good choice to accompany grilled chicken, or perhaps, a Caesar salad with chicken or shrimp.
For a flavorful wine with a touch of sweetness, Vouvray wines from the beautiful Loire Valley are a good choice. I found a 2006 B&G Vouvray ($8.29). This Chenin Blanc has peach and pear flavors. I can just imagine it with a platter of fine cheeses, camembert and brie in particular. B&G are of course Barton and Guestier, a Bordeaux firm that has produced fine quality wines for many generations. You can sometimes find their Château Magnol, a boutique red wine from their residential estate near Blanquefort in the Bordeaux suburbs on the route to the Médoc. It is worth seeking out.
Not all fine French influenced wines are now made in France. Readers will recall my columns on the Lurton brothers, the third winemaking generation of the family which has now expanded beyond its Bordeaux roots. Their 2007 Lurton Pinot Gris Valle de Eco ($8.69) is made in Argentina, from vineyards 1,100 meters above sea level. Their wines, from France, Argentina amd Chile, are worth seeking out. I would therefore add to the half case of white wines that we have put together thus far their 2007 Malbec ($9.09) as our first red wine. Why pay more, when this reasonably priced wine, made by experts, is so satisfying?
For many, the tried and true red Bordeaux wine that always seems to satisfy will be the 2005 Mouton Cadet red ($8.29). This is a classic, blended Bordeaux wine, at Merlot 65%, Cabernet Sauvignon $20, and Cabernet Franc 15%. This wine always gives good value, and an authentic taste of Bordeaux at a very reasonable price. Why pay twice that for an untried wine from a untested and recent producer, when you can still get the real thing so reasonably? They also, of course, make a fine Mouton Cadet white wine, but I did not find it on this excursion.
Say barbeque, and of course, pork ribs come to mind. We have a new charcoal grille, that is giving us a great deal of pleasure. To accompany those rich meaty flavors, something a bit different is needed, such as a nice rose wine. It requires some looking, because many rosé wines are a bit too sweet. I hope that Domaine des Nouvelle Rosé d’Anjou ($7.89) will do the trick.
What about hamburgers? What goes best with this all-American food? Well, I am grilling hamburgers tonight, the real ones, over an inch thick. A bottle of Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais Villages 2005, still an affordable bargain($9.29), will go very well. For good measure, add a bottle of DuBoeuf Beaujolais 2005 ($8.69). Let these two bottles introduce you to the entire scale of classified Beaujolais wines, from the light Fleurie or Chiroubles (my favorite), to the heavier Moulin-à-Vent. You will decide your own favorite, and perhaps, try a mixed case in the future. They are usually $12.00 or less per bottle. Don’t forget that with Beaujolais, the wines should be served chilled.
1 And to round out your case of summer wines, try a bottle of 2005 Loire Valley Chinon Domaine de la Chapelle ($10.99). It is said to have a touch of wild strawberry taste, a fine summer red wine on the lighter side.
Your case of wines, six white, five red and one rosé, come to $109.68. My local wine retailer gives a 10% discount for mixed cases, which takes care of the taxes. In any event, we have a fine case for under $125.00, tax included.
Let me mention two other wines that I found, a bit more expensive, but relative bargains. There was a 2002 Château Larose-Trintaudon cru bourgeois from the Haut Médoc ($18.29). This is a very well made red Bordeaux wine from an historic region, and the cru bourgeois designation is a reliable indication of quality. Then I was very pleased to find a 2006 Chablis Wiliam Fèvre Champs Royaux ($22.99). When my wife and I visited Chablis, William Fèvre told us that this wine was a careful selection of grapes from great terroirs. Try a bottle of this wine well chilled, and you will see what great wine tastes like.