Flowers of the South

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I don’t know about you, but there are times when I just want a decent, simple red wine to go with ordinary food. Nothing fancy, you understand, just a light quaffable wine to help the meal along. Even if I had the money, I don’t suppose I’d want to drink fine Burgundies every day.  Although on second thoughts, perhaps I would.

Anyway, the two wines this week fit the bill nicely: honest French reds that are fairly typical and reasonably easy on the pocket. They come from the vast Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France and if you read this column regularly, you’ll know by now that they produce some jolly good wines there. At least, I hope you read this column.

I know that I do, almost every week. And so does the bloke down the road. I’m sure that the Editor reads it too. (Don’t bet on it – Ed.) Even my three dogs read it, or to be more accurate, I read it to them.

Fleur de Floradice Merlot 2011 (red), France (Bt. 325 @ Friendship)

This is a very dark red wine, with an attractive aroma of blackcurrants and black fruit. There’s also a kind of brambly aroma which reminds me slightly of the Grenache grape. And because this wine is from Southern France, it’s quite possible that there’s a bit of Grenache in the blend.

On the palate, you’ll find that the wine is completely dry, but the black fruit and raspberries are quite up-front. It’s a medium-bodied wine, a pleasingly soft mouth-feel and plenty of ripe tannins. The finish is rich, dry and long and in many ways, this is a typical French café wine; the kind of thing you’d encounter on the table in a little bistro almost anywhere in France. With just a fine touch of acidity to give it a bit of liveliness, it’s pleasing to drink on its own. But you know, this is the kind of wine I love to drink cool, with crusty French bread and a large piece of Camembert. It would go well with quiche or other light dishes.

And by the way, if you crave a decent French Camembert as distinct from a Tasmanian fake one, try Big C in Pattaya South. Meanwhile, down at Friendship Supermarket they’ve started baking their own superb French-style baguettes. If you are lucky enough to arrive at the right time, they’ll be warm and crisp – straight out of the oven.

Fleur de Floradice Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (red), France (Bt. 325 @ Friendship)

This is a dark red – almost purple wine. It has a lovely warm, sweetish, jammy smell of black fruit, dried herbs and a touch of spice: a typical Cabernet Sauvignon aroma in fact, which is a good start.

Although the label is identical to that of the Merlot (apart from the name of the grape), the taste is not as different as I expected. If anything, the Cabernet has more tannin than the Merlot and as a result it’s a bit firmer, a bit more serious perhaps, but it’s still immensely enjoyable as an appetite-rousing French red. And that’s another thing; both these wines are typically French.  Now you might think it seems a bit obvious to describe a wine from Languedoc-Roussillon as “French”. But you know, in recent months I’ve tried some French wines that taste as though they’re from Australia or California. If you ask me, that’s richly ironic, because an honest French winemaker would rather shoot his grandmother than make an Australian-style wine. Of course, it all boils down to money, but it’s rather sad. So it’s three cheers then, for these chaps at the Fleur de Floradice winery for remaining true to tradition.

This Cabernet probably needs something a bit more substantial than the bread and cheese that would satisfy the Merlot. It is probably more suited to hearty red meat dishes. But I have to say, I’ll stay with the cheese thank you, because I have a passion for cheese. I’d even try those over-powering little goat cheeses covered in ash, which look suspiciously like goat droppings. Come to think of it, this wine would make a good partner for strong, assertive cheeses. It might even go a treat with goat droppings too, but I shall let you test that theory for yourself.