Posts Tagged ‘Rhone’

Last Saturday we enjoyed a lovely Rhône red at Le Garage in Sausalito. A crowd pleaser for sure, but selecting the 2007 Vacqueyras Clefs des Murailles Rhône was no easy task—what with 10 of us around the table, ordering entrées that ranged from lamb daube and rainbow trout to New York strip steak and mushroom risotto.

Peter did the picking; here are the key points he kept in mind as he perused Le Garage’s extensive wine list.

Price. Bottles on the list ranged from $24 to $155, so at $42, the Clefs des Murailles was a relative bargain. One of our favorite wine merchants is selling it for $17.99.

Versatile varietal. Pinot Noir is a popular group dinner choice, but a southern Rhône red often does the job just as well: medium-bodied, full of fruit, not-too-high alcohol, easy to drink. The dominant grapes in southern Rhône red blends are usually Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. The rules governing the Vacqueyras appellation (see next tip) dictate that at least half the grapes in this region’s red wine are Grenache.

Controlled appellation. Many countries, including the U.S., Italy, Portugal, and Spain, have a labeling system based on France’s appellation contrôlée. France’s system, however, is by far the most, well, controlling. A governing body in Paris dictates everything about a particular region’s oenological output, from percentage of grape varieties used to exact winemaking techniques.

Critics charge that these constraints limit creativity and innovation in winemaking, but they do help take the guesswork out of picking a wine from a list of unfamiliars. If you know and trust wines from a French region listed, you can usually consider them a safe bet. The same holds true for Spanish and Portuguese wines, while Italy’s DOC system has not been perceived as a good indicator of quality. And there isn’t even a pretense that our own, distinctly American AVA system has anything to do with quality—it’s mainly concerned with truth in advertising regarding where the grapes in a particular wine are grown.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: