I don’t know about you, but I prefer wines with a bit of character. I get bored with that bland commercial stuff. And there’s plenty of it to get bored with, I can tell you. They don’t really offend, but they don’t excite very much either. At the other extreme of course, are those horrid things with so much acid or tannin that your teeth tingle. I once foolishly bought a very cheap Muscadet which turned out to be so tart and acidic that it was undrinkable. It might have been quite useful for cleaning out a tractor gearbox or dissolving a small animal, but not much else.
“Soir de France” Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Pays d’Oc IGP (red), France. (Best and others, Bt. 385)
Here’s an attractive little red wine from the Languedoc, which is a cut above ordinary French bistro wine and a good deal more interesting to drink. It is a rich deep red, with an arresting aroma of red berry fruits, spices, dry earthy herbs and cherries in the background.
White Ugni Blanc grapes on the vine.
Incidentally, IGP stands for Indication Géographique Protégée which translates roughly into “Protected Geographical Region”. The European Union, in its infinite wisdom decreed that from 2009 onwards, the lovely old expression Vin du Pays was far too vague and had to go. So they came up with the less-than-charming IGP classification instead. The expression Vin du Pays will gradually disappear altogether. The phrase Pays d’Oc simply means the “Land of the South”.
The wine is light-bodied and dry, with a very smooth, almost silky mouth-feel. There’s red berry fruit up front and a sprightly “edge” to the taste which give it a bit of zing. Unlike many French reds, the tannins are very soft and supple and the wine is well-balanced. There’s a decent finish too.
This is a really easy-drinker and at 13% alcohol I’d be happy to knock it back with snacks or light meals. It would go well with pizza or pasta. If you find the label a bit drab, you can always tip the whole lot into a decanter, which will also aerate the wine and help to bring out the aroma.
Bouchard Aîné Blanc de Blancs (white), France. (Villa and others, Bt. 375)
The French firm of Bouchard in based in Beaune and has been making wines for over 250 years. This is one of their entry-level wines; basic but quite assertive and typically bistro-French. In the glass, the wine looks more expensive than it is, with a pleasing oily appearance and an attractive pale yellow colour. There is an aroma of fresh fruits, vanilla and a faint flowery citrus aroma in the background; hints of herbs too. On the palate, there’s plenty of citrus and a good dash of acidity. It’s quite a light-bodied wine but very dry and it has a satisfying dry finish.
In case you’re wondering, “Blanc de blancs” means a white wine made entirely from white grapes. Although the label doesn’t mention the grapes used, it’s actually a blend of Chardonnay and Ugni Blanc which, you might be surprised to know is the most widely-planted white grape in France. It’s known in Italy as the Trebbiano.
I was looking forward to trying the wine later in the evening with some Camembert cheese, but when I opened the packet the reek of ammonia revealed that the poor old thing was over the hill and half way down the other side. In desperation (for to me, a meal without cheese is like a day without sun) I opened some mild Cheddar. And do you know? The cheese and the wine matched perfectly. As I keep telling the dogs, never believe that old nonsense that cheese should only be served with red wine.
The wine is only 12% alcohol, but it’s very much a food wine and would be excellent with grilled fish and seafood dishes, assuming that you like your whites dry, sharp and zingy. This lively white would probably go well with chicken in a creamy sauce, but serve it as cold as you dare. The wine I mean, not the chicken.