G’day guys, here I am today with some more wine. Wine has survived the ages for thousands of years, predating Christ. And French wine certainly has survived through all those famous historical events and countless wars, invasion and occupation of armies. Since the Romans sent forth north into France by Julius Caesar drove the Celtic tribes already farming the region out of the area and brought with them the practice of wine, the first thing the opposing side would do is exact revenge on their enemies is destroy their previous resources, namely uprooting their grapevines for one. Over the years from the time France was first settled in the Stone Age, the area played staged to looting, pillaging and sacking of all those during the Iron Age, the Vikings, the Vandals, the Celts, the Romans. The Black Death that wiped out countless farmers and citizens, the Little Ice Age in the 16th century that brought famine and poverty to Europe. The occupation of England during the Hundred Years War that saw hundreds of Frenchmen leave their homes to fight the English and left many towns and wineries ghost towns, many of whom never returned. And the Third Reich during the second World War who took wine as they pleased without retort and almost ruined the Champagne industry during their occupation, burning down buildings and ordering them to supply Nazi officers with thousands of bottles. Through all this turmoil, French wine continued to be made and exported, even during. France, French wine and spirits has always been held in high standards in the eyes of diners, drinkers and connoisseurs, that their liquor is inherently superior. I don’t believe in this mainstream stigma, per-se, I believe the wine we make here in Australia is just as good as everywhere else in the world if not best. But it was the French who romanticized the idea of fine wine and dining, and for that people love them. I think we all remember that scene in Mr Bean’s Holiday where Rowan Atkinson in a restaurant in Paris is served with a beautiful big platter of French seafood; mussels, prawns and crabs. A meal more suited to light-bodied white like a sauvignon-blanc (or were it not France, a nice Irish whiskey on ice) than this article’s focus bottle, but the thought of that meal does a lot to prove my point. It was the French who glamorized the role of a sommelier, the waiter in charge of helping diners choose and buy their wine for their meals, a phrase originally derived from the ancient French word “somier”, a pack animal.
Today I’m drinking a nice bottle of Grenache Shiraz (or Syrah as they call it in the rest of the world) blend from the Côte du Rhône terroir, a small wine area between the north and south main regions in the Rhône Valley, east of Clariette de Die. This bottle is authentically French, most of the label, Les Trois Clefs (The Three Kings in English) is not even translated to English. Les Trois Clefs being the capital town of the wine’s domain in Côtes du Rhône. This particular bottle I picked up is a 2014 vintage. I’ve had one or two labels of equal age, a few Italians others Australian, three or four years is usually about enough to give a good wine some further definition. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Rhône Valley, so I’m looking forward to this wine.
So I crack the bottle open, the nose is sour, sickly sweet smell that penetrates deep in your sinuses. Admittedly, slightly off putting. But after it’s poured into a glass, the bubbling froth of red expels this, the nose transforms into a sweet mass of healthy green fruit, describable only as the thick scent of fresh ripening grapevine. Once given a chance to breathe, the nose becomes exquisite, that of cinnamon sugar and nutmeg. I take my first sip, it tastes sour and full-bodied, a slight background of sweetness. As I swish it around my mouth, it relaxes and takes on a more mellow feel. The aftertaste, of yeast, sourdough, and pastry.
In closing: This is a sophisticated wine, with many sour qualities. Whether or not that is a good thing is up to your own preference, I for one can take it or leave it. I can’t think of anybody who’d say no to a glass of Rhône. As for my verdict, I like this wine. Not enough to go running around town ranting and raving about it, but for a fifteen quid French import you get what you pay for.