Say Hello to Some Good Buys
Itís back to the sunny South of France this week, for a couple of contrasting
reds, both good in their different ways. Most of the bargains tend to hail from
the Languedoc-Roussillon area, which at one time was merely associated with
cheap plonk. But times have changed dramatically and there are some splendid
wines coming out the region. But letís start with a fairly typical red from the
Rh๔ne area, a little further to the north-east.
Côtes du Vivarais 2009 (red), France. (Foodland
The C๔tes du Vivarais (koht deu vee-vah-RAY) vineyards
are on either side of the famous Gorges de líArd่che, to the west of the River
Rh๔ne. Theyíve been making wine in the Ard่che for centuries. The wines are rich
and dry, with aromas of black fruits and spices. These robust wines, with their
characteristic tannins are usually blends of southern Grenache with northern
Syrah (itís the same as Shiraz). So successful have these wines become in recent
years, that in 1999 they were upgraded to Appellation díOrigine Contr๔l้e
status, which puts them a cut above the ordinary Vin de Pays.
The wine is an appealing dark red, with flecks of purple and
thereís an attractive aroma that reminds me of freshly ground pepper. This
incidentally, is a characteristic of Syrah and Grenache grapes. But thereís
fruit on the aroma too and I picked up the smell of black cherries with, in the
background, a lovely dusty, earthy smell of dry herbs. These enticing aromas
donít leap out of the glass; you have to give them time. And itís worth it,
believe me. I seem to go on a lot about aromas. Perhaps I am becoming a kind of
smell-freak. Iím convinced that in a previous life, I was a dog. So that may
account for it.
But I digress. On the palate, the wine is soft and seductive
with plenty of fruit. Itís a heady 13.5% alcohol and as dry as they come, with a
pleasing (but not excessive) foundation of tannin. Thereís a long and satisfying
dry finish too. Oh yes, the bottle has a rather classy-looking label, so it
would look quite impressive on your dinner table. Try it with a casserole or
really full-flavoured cheeses. The makers suggest that you serve the wine at
around 16ฐ Celsius, so in this climate itíll need a short session in the fridge.
Take the cork out first.
Louis Eschenaur Cabernet
Sauvignon 2009 (red), France. (Foodland Bt. 299)
If you prefer something a little less robust and a hundred
baht cheaper, hereís an alternative. Itís about as cheap as they come too, but
itís a jolly good little easy-drinker. The wine is a Vin de Pays díOc
(ďCountry wine from the South of FranceĒ) and hails from the
Languedoc-Roussillon region. It looks lovely too; a deep, oily dark-red; hints
of purple and thick legs clinging to the inside of the glass. Thereís red fruit
on the aroma, especially black cherries, a suggestion of brambles, sweet herbs
and fresh ground pepper. I think thereís a very subtle dash of mint too. It
looks and smells a lot more expensive than it actually is.
The wine has an exceptionally silky-soft mouth-feel; plenty
of fruit up-front, very light tannins and a heady 13% of alcohol. With a light
to medium body, itís as dry a bone and fairly typical of the good Cabernet
Sauvignons coming from this region. Thereís a long dry finish too, with a
pleasing balance of tannin. At this price, the wine would be great for any
social gathering. Itís interesting enough to talk about and light enough to go
it alone, especially if you serve it slightly chilled.
This is a really attractive little glugger and a great
bargain, so Iím going to go and buy some more. But if itís all gone by the time
I get back to the shop, I shall never speak to you again.