The tingly excitement felt just like our early gardening days when I couldn’t wait to scour the seductive catalogues arriving in the mail. I would spend hours sitting at the kitchen table reading detailed descriptions of plants and tools. Studying what gorgeous new plant introduction or new-fangled tool I just had to have.
These days in France the glossy catalogues arriving in my mailbox are full of descriptive words like spicy, rounded, ripe, elegant, fresh, complex, strong and refined. Could be flowers, but they’re not! These glossies are wine catalogs, for it is the season of the Foire aux Vin. This event is the annual special presentation of wines in the major grocery store chains.
For years I have thought that this is just a gimmick to lead one to think that it is a great time to get bargains as the big chains stores try to get rid of leftover wine stocks. But, it turns out that each major grocery chain has a dedicated team of wine experts that spend a year tasting, buying and writing up descriptions of wines for this legitimate event.
One catalogue in particular was well organized and cleverly presented. So there I sat with little sticky tabs and a glass of wine trying to pick out a limited selection of wines to taste test over the winter.
Bordeaux Lussac Saint-Emilion Chateau Moulin de Grenet 2010
"Strong with a beautiful classic presence stepping off with a note of minerals. A wine of character, correct and concentrated which will age wonderfully.”
Languedoc-Roussillon Fitou Domaine de la Piale 2011
"A beautiful approach to the complexities of the soils of Fitou which pull flavors from the ocean and the rocky hillsides. Fruity and gourmand.”
Bordeaux vin Blanc Graves de Vayres Chateau Goudichaud 2012
"A very beautiful white, nervous and structured with a bouquet of citrus and white fruits. The soils of Graves near the city of Libourne produce wines well bred, but not well known.”
Could any flower be written up with such flowery language? It was so hard to narrow myself to a rational selection - I wanted to “sample” way too many.
The very next morning it was off to the grocery store. I was incredibly self conscious as the bottom of my grocery cart was blanketed in wine bottles. Then the spectacle continued to get worse until there were three layers of bottles. I won’t even go into how I felt at the checkout counter.....(Well, perhaps I felt a little French).
The tasting of the wines has started. I’m trying to keep notes on what I like and don’t like and which regions are more appealing to my palette. I also note if the catalog descriptions really helped me in advising what wine goes with what food. And, really, is the wine as full of cherries and earth as promised?
I’ve tasted a few. The first bottle was excitedly opened for a dinner with our neighbors. It was decidedly too young and we had to set it aside and open up something else. The second was a lovely wine from just down the road. This is great news as I can go visit the vineyard and buy directly from them now. A third was a Pouilly Fuisse. I can check that region off my list. Too fruity for me-- needs less cherry, more earth. (Tom who doesn't taste nor drink wines added these flavor descriptions, for a white!...)
It will take years of trying this and that, but just like in gardening, experience will help me remember the nuances and strengths of the different wines and where they thrive with a meal or shine on their own. And, this new experience folds right into my gardening ways as raising a glass after a hard day’s shoveling isn’t such a bad thing.