Our nearest Tops supermarket is the excellent branch on Soi Boonsampan, known to the locals as Soi Khao Noi. For an out-of-town supermarket there’s also a decent wine section with an array of interesting products. The usual suspects are there of course, Mont Clair, Gato Negro, and Mar Y Sol but the other day I noticed an unexpected selection of rosé wines, mostly from France. Rosé is the perfect summer wine to accompany salads or other light dishes, especially during the oppressive temperatures at this time of year.
If you have been reading this column recently, you may recall that I reviewed a Fleur De Galetis Rosé a few weeks ago. It was a simple wine; an easy and attractive drinker that offered jolly good value for money, so yesterday at Tops, I picked up a bottle of the red equivalent from the same company. In case you are wondering, the French word fleur of course means “a flower”. The less obvious word galet means “pebble” and its derivation galetis means “cobblestone”. The name “Flower of the Cobblestones” doesn’t sound particularly enchanting, so perhaps something is lost in translation. Someone at the wine company admitted that the name doesn’t really translate successfully anyway. I suppose it’s as fatuous as attempting to translate British names like Liverpool or Portsmouth into French.
The Fleur De Galetis label contains the words Vin de France which indicates the wine’s category rather than merely the country of origin. Most wine enthusiasts are familiar (partly, at least) with France’s appellation system. The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system was introduced in 1935, though various attempts to regulate the French wine industry can be traced back many years earlier. France has one of the oldest systems for protected designation of wine origin in the world with strict laws controlling winemaking and production. Many other European countries have adopted systems based on the French one. On 2012, the AOC system was replaced the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) system. The two do pretty much the same thing though the newer one – as far as the consumer is concerned – is slightly simpler. The rather convenient VDQS category was unceremoniously ditched and there are now only three categories of wine rather than the previous four.
Now all this might seem dull, technical stuff but it’s essential knowledge if you want to buy French wine. I’ll briefly explain, so try to concentrate and look as though you’re interested, even if you couldn’t care a frog’s leg. At the lowest level is Vin de France, a simple table wine category which replaced the older Vin de Table. The only difference is that under the new regulations, wineries have the option to show the grape variety and vintage on the label. The middle ground is held by wines classified as IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) which replaced the older Vin de Pays. Top level wines are labelled AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) which replaces the older AOC wines.
On the surface, it looks neat and tidy but there’s the inevitable spanner in the works. The wine authorities didn’t require the re-labeling of wines already in the supply chain, which would have been a hopelessly impossible task anyway. Wines made before 2012 obviously carry the older classification names on their labels. Bearing in mind the longevity of some French wines, these older classifications will be with us for a good many years yet.
Fleur De Galetis (red), France. Bt 459 @ Tops, Central
Vin de France, as you know if you’ve been paying attention, is simple everyday wine; the sort you’d find as the house red in many a small French bistro. Sometimes a simple wine is just what’s needed, especially for simple meals or a social gathering.
Surprisingly, the wine comes with a cork and a fairly hefty one too. I’d have thought that for a Vin de France, a screw closure would be more convenient but I suppose old habits die hard, especially in France. The wine is made at Domaines Montariol-Degroote (known as DMD), a large company in the sprawling Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. The company owns many domains and produces eleven million bottles of wine a year, most of which are exported.
The wine is a rich red, with purple tints and has an attractive aroma of redcurrant and raspberry with a dash of mint and herbs. According to the company website, each grape variety was vinified separately and given a six-day fermentation period. The wine is surprisingly supple and fruity on the palate, with a well-balanced light-to-medium body. It also has soft and attractive tannins and a satisfying long, dry finish with a surprising dash of sweetness. A good finish, which is the taste that remains in your mouth after you’ve swallowed, is invariably the sign of a well-crafted wine.
With its restrained fruit, this is a pleasingly smooth everyday wine very much in the French style. It’s an easy drinker too, and at just 12.5% ABV you should be able to enjoy a glass or three without feeling heady. Although it’s an entry-level wine, it tastes and feels more expensive than it is. Even at this modest price it has a touch of elegance. Unlike some fuller-bodied wines that are better enjoyed with food, this is light enough to go it alone, but would also make an excellent partner for light meals, cheese quiche or other snacks. I shall certainly buy a few more bottles of this at the next opportunity.