During a visit to Gigondas last fall, I had lunch with Thierry Faravel, proprietor and winemaker at Domaine le Bouïssière. Thierry and his brother Gilles are second generation vignerons, tending vines planted by their father Antonin, who grew grapes for the co-op for 41 years (not uncommon in Southern France). The family vineyards are in Gigondas, a Southern Rhône Cru that nurtures vines at the base (and on the slopes as well) of a chain of beautiful, lacy mountains called the Dentelles de Montmirail.
Thierry is a fully inspiring man who wears signs of vineyard life well. Lined hands stained with tannin, a soft look to his dress clothes, stylish round glasses, killer wines. A gentle speaker that I had the good fortune of sitting next to during lunch, because he shared something with me that has resonated. “We create a live product.” And this followed by, “Wine is a lifestyle of humility. The more you learn, the less you know. Always changing.” These are such truisms that I carry them with me in my notebook.
Gigondas authorizes 80% Grenache in their red wines, often ramped up with Mourvèdre and Syrah, though other grapes are permitted. Since almost all of the Gigondas production is red, a lot of Grenache grows here, which is actually substantially prolific. During my visit to the area there was much talk about Grenache, which really is a reliable and tasty workhouse. Wines grown in the Dentelles de Montmirail are astoundingly fresh and alive, some of the most vivid and delicious I’ve ever tasted. The marl and limestone soil contribute to this, and the windy blow of the Mistral through the higher elevation brings a freshness that is so pleasant, it can be hard to resist. Theirry recognized this as “a breeziness blowing off stones” and I’m certain this could be a tasting note as well as a climatic descriptor.
It was mentioned that Grenache was originally planted in Southern Rhône to “feed Burgundy”, which is an interesting historical concept that I’m reading into. I was also told that old Grenache bears some similarities to Burgundy and Thierry told me, “If you want a good Burgundy, forget your Gigondas in the cellar.”
That was good news to me in the weeks leading up to Open that Bottle Night. My husband had cellared a 2000 Gigondas from Domaine les Goubert, their Cuvée Florence, which is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. There were no promises made by Domaine les Goubert that the wine would still taste great, or that it would resemble a Burgundy. I’m going to purchase a less elderly bottle to give this wine a try from a new perspective. While we’d stored it well since we obtained the bottle, there were no guarantees of what happened before, as it was a gift. Also wonderful: I had a selection of French cheese to taste, which would be a delight to situate into the wine for more levity and depth.
In the end, we had to open a second bottle and not because we drank the first quickly.We’d missed it. Imagine that there was a day, a moment, maybe even under my care, when the wine went from the ethereal, complex, compelling drink that Thierry had compared with Burgundy to a wine that was, well, not exactly wine.
And so the warnings hold true: don’t wait too long to enjoy the good things in life. But, let’s hope for good fortune in the cellar. After all, the stuff is alive…
French Cheese Selection
Bleu d’Auvergne: “With a pungent scent, Bleu d’Auvergne has a salty and spicy taste. A perfect addition to salads or served with apple slices, Bleu d’Auvergne is also ideal on a burger. Enjoy with sweet dessert wines, strong reds, or a rich dark beer.” A red Côtes du Rhône would go well with this one.
Époisses: “With its strong aroma and deep orange exterior, you might expect Époisses to have a bold flavor. Instead you’ll find a smooth and silky cheese with a unique, slightly salty taste. Spread on raisin bread or gingerbread, Époisses is perfect with a sweet white wine at the end of a meal.” Note: a recommended pairing is Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, another southern Rhône wine that I covered in Palate Press.
Camembert: “The quintessential French cheese, Camembert is typically a bit stronger in flavor than Brie. It has a taste of wild mushrooms and a buttery texture that melts into the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich. Enjoy Camembert with a light, fruity red or sweet white wine.” A red Côtes de Rhône is a suggested pairing.
Brie: “Called the King of Cheeses, Brie is one of the best-known cheeses of France. Its soft, creamy texture, mellow flavor and rich aroma make it a crowd-pleaser on bread and crackers or melted in an omelet. Try Brie with light, fruity red wines or crisp whites.”
Saint Agur: “Less salty than other bleu cheeses, Saint Agur is creamy instead of crumbly. Try it in a salad, on a burger, or spread on a baguette and enjoy Saint Agur with a sweet white or red wine.”
Wine Pairing Weekend
On Saturday, March 11, the #winePW group will share our Open That Bottle Night pairings. Below is a list of the posts that will be shared on Saturday, March 11:
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm will post “How #OTBN happens while on vacation in Dominica“
Jen from Vino Travels will share “Baked sausage rigatoni with Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Riserva“
Sue from A Palatable Pastime is pairing “Pork Carnitas with Saint Cosme Cotes-Du-Rhone“
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog is writing about “South of the Border for Open That Bottle Night“
Cindy from Grape Experiences is posting “Wine and Dine: Two New Zealand Pinot Noirs and One-Pan Chicken“
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing “Red Wine Chorizo + 1994 Argyle Reserve Oregon Pinot Noir“
Nancy from Pull That Cork will post “Our OTBN Celebration: The Château Léoville-Las Cases Stole the Show“
Lori from Dracaena Wines is sharing”Wine is in Boxes. It’s OTBN. Still turned out to be a night not to miss”
Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will post “Batting A Thousand for OTBN Vol 8- A Celebration With Friends“
L’occasion opened “A Gigondas from the Cellar“
Julie from Wine-N-Friends will share “A memorable pairing with 2012 Kenzo Murasaki“
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator is posting “Cheers to Open That Bottle Night 2017 with Champagne from Bollinger“
David from Cooking Chat is posting “Shiitake Beef Stew with a Special Wine“
You can join the conversation about Open That Bottle Night Pairings during our live Twitter Chat on Saturday, March 11. Simply tune into the #winePW hashtag on Twitter at 10 am central on 3/11 and join the conversation.
Please also make plans to join us for the April Wine Pairing Weekend event, when Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm will be hosting on the topic of “My Old Standy” on April 8. You can get a list of all the past and upcoming #winePW events by visiting the Wine Pairing Weekend page.
Thank you to Cheese of France for the delicious samples that made a very special evening for us and for Rhone Valley Wines for welcoming me in Gigondas.