05/13/09 – wine from the south of France (while we’re still allowed)

By Jesse on May 11, 2009

Apparently, French wine culture is rapidly going down the toilette.

In a period roughly coinciding with that since the election of the teetotaling Nicholas Sarkozy, there’s been an upswing of neo-puratinism in France, and wine culture (or, more broadly, alcohol culture of all kinds) has been one of the targets. In a recent blog post, Dr. Vino talks about how the French government has banned certain alcohol ads, and has even come down hard against subjective wine reviews in journalistic publications.

Point is, we’d better drink us some French wine before they ban that, too.

As the weather heats up here in this reclaimed desert we call home, many of us may find ourselves imagining how nice it would be to take a quick vacation to some kind of Mediterranean climate… maybe, say, the south of France? For the majority of us, however, the closest we’re going to get to the south of France is drinking some wine from the south of France.

We’re going to focus on three southern French regions in this meeting: Provence, the Rhone Valley, and Languedoc-Roussillon. These are all big regions (with plenty of sub-regions within them), so you’ve definitely got a ton of options when you go shopping. Click on this map to get your bearings.

Provence is in the extreme south east of France and is the home of the French Riviera. It’s also the home of some of the most legendary rosé in the world, which might be just the thing as the weather starts to get warm. (The region also produces some great whites and reds as well.) We ran a Provence tasting last summer, so you can click here to learn more about the region. You can also click here to read our responses to four of the bottles we tried.

–The Rhône Valley is a hugely important region situated just to the north of Provence. The northern Rhône is where the world’s most legendary Syrahs are from (in the regions of Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie, and St.-Joseph, Syrah is the only red grape allowed). Meanwhile, in the southern Rhone — places like Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône — you’ll find blends of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsaut, etc. On the white site, there’s Viognier, Rhossanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc… the list goes on and on. We’ve tasted the whites and the reds from the Rhône before, and they always go over well.

–Finally, Languedoc-Roussillon is an emerging region further southwest along the French coast towards Spain, the wines of which currently represent some great values. The grapes used there include many of the Rhone varietals, but also some grapes from elsewhere in France, like Cabernet, Merlot, and even Pinot Noir. You kind of get the sense that Languedoc hasn’t really figured out who they’re trying to be just yet. Regardless, the wines are often delicious and inexpensive.

For this meeting, feel free to bring either a white, a red, or a rosé from any of these southern French regions. (As always, you can opt to bring 10 Euros instead.)

We’ll be meeting at Wino HQ in Sherman Oaks. The RSVP system functions like this: if you’d like to attend, you click on this link and tell me so. Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go out and find yourself a bottle of French wine per the regions listed above — or simply bring a €10 donation, if you prefer. We’ll see you on Wednesday at 9pm!