I Love French Wine and Food - A Bordeaux Rose
If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the world-famous Bordeaux region of southwestern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a Bordeaux rose from an internationally renowned producer.
Among France's eleven wine-growing regions Bordeaux ranks first in acreage with about 50% more land devoted to vineyards than the second-place Rhone Valley. But it's more than just a question of acreage and volume. Bordeaux is widely considered as one of the top wine producing regions of the entire earth and has been for centuries. The wine reviewed below comes from somewhere in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux produces over seventy million cases of wine per year, about 85% red, 12% white, and the rest rose. That means a total of more than two million cases of rose wine per year. When I wrote the first Bordeaux article in this series, I Love French Wine and Food - A Bordeaux Merlot I stated that I didn't remember ever tasting a Bordeaux rose. I also promised to deal with this problem and I'll review Bordeaux rose in this article.
There are over twenty two thousand vineyards in Bordeaux englobing about 280 thousand acres. This means the average Bordeaux vineyard is less than 13 acres or somewhat more than 5 hectares, which is not a big area. About half of the vineyards produce their own wine, and about six thousand produce and sell their own wine, the rest selling wine through cooperatives. Bordeaux boasts about 60 different wine appellations ranging from fair-to-middling to world class with plenty in between. Some Bordeaux wine classifications date back to 1855 and have barely changed since, except that Baron Rothschild was able to get his best wine promoted from Second Cru (Second Growth) to Premier Cru (First Growth). Those in the know say that his Chateau Lafitte definitely deserves this honor. We'll review some fairly top-notch Bordeaux wines sooner or later, but the wine reviewed below is quite inexpensive. Interestingly Chateau Petrus, crafted by another internationally known Bordeaux wine producer holds no prestigious classification. However, Chateau Petrus is definitely world class and comes with a price to match, if the wine merchant will even look at your money.
Believe it or not, Merlot is the major red grape in Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon comes in a distant second. We'll talk about the remaining important Bordeaux red grape varieties elsewhere in this series. The major white grapes are Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Both the village of St. Emillion, population about twenty-four hundred, and its surrounding vineyards are UNESCO World Heritage sites. St. Emillion has its own wine classification dating back to 1878 and revised about every ten years. If you want to test your memory or become an old-fashioned sommelier then you can learn the gory details of this wine classification. Interestingly enough several St. Emillion wines were declassified in 2006, the most recent moment that the judges wielded their feared ax. One such unlucky wine was the Chateau La Tour du Pin Figeac, produced by Jean-Pierre Moueix, the guy who makes the famous Chateau Petrus and who produced an inexpensive Merlot reviewed in the article cited above.
If you're going to tour this area you should come during the week. The Office du Tourisme (Tourist Office) organizes tours of local vineyards including Chateau Petrus and Cheval Blanc another top of the line producer. Just south of town is Chateau Ausone, rounding out the best producers in the region.
In addition to vineyard tours and wine tasting, there are a few sights to see. St. Emillion itself is lovely with ancient stone buildings and the ruins of the city walls. The Eglise Monolithe (Monolithic Church) was hewn out of rock between the Ninth and the Twelfth Centuries. It is one of France's largest underground churches. Its Clocher (Bell Tower) dominates the town center. You'll also want to see the Thirteenth Century Chateau du Roi (King's Castle) built by the English; remember that Bordeaux was once in the hands of the English. Enjoy the Place du Marche (Market Square.)
Before reviewing the Bordeaux wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Andouillette (Chitterling Sausage). For your second course savor Esturgeon a la Libournaise (Sturgeon cooked with White Wine). And as dessert indulge yourself with Fanchonette Bordelaise (Puff Pastry with Custard and Meringue).
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Wine Reviewed Mouton Cadet Rose 2006 12.7% about $11.00
Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. Vinified using the traditional "saignee" method and blended by the family company, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, "le Rose de Mouton Cadet" is made from carefully selected wine from chosen vineyards in the Bordeaux region. It should be drunk young at a temperature of 8º C, which will enhance its subtle and refreshing fruit, sustained in a full finish. And now for the review.
My first pairing was with home made barbecued chicken accompanied by rice, grilled Portabello mushrooms, and grilled red peppers. It was quite substantial for a rose. However, I tasted bubble gum. The acidity was nice but the wine was a bit sour.
My next meal consisted of an omelet with local Havarti cheese, Turkish salad, and sliced avocado. The wine was not very present and this combination was not a success. I felt that I was drinking alcoholic fruit juice. This mild tasting meal overpowered the rose. Interestingly enough the wine went well with the avocado, but I still tasted bubble gum with the Turkish salad. I had the feeling that this wine was almost worth drinking with fruit-juice candy.
My final meal was whole-wheat spaghetti with a homemade tuna, red onion, garlic, and Greek Olive sauce that had a commercial tomato spaghetti sauce as its base. I doused on a lot of grated Parmesan Cheese. I was moderately proud of this meal, but the wine pairing was no success. This rose tasted like a fruit juice and didn't react differently to the sauce's different components.
The first cheese pairing was with a Dutch Edam that was nutty, a bit fatty, and somewhat sour. The wine was not so bad; I tasted fruit in the background. The next cheese was a mild-tasting Italian Fruilano. It was OK, an acceptable combination of fruit and acidity.
Final verdict. No doubt about it; even if I didn't expect much at this price I was disappointed. I have tasted red Mouton Cadet and this rose was in a different league. There was some left in the bottle and I couldn't bring myself to finish it. Perhaps I missed a great pairing. I don't think so.
Levi Reiss has authored alone or with a co-author ten computer and Internet books, but to tell the truth, he would really rather just drink fine French, German, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink what he wants, in moderation. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new wine, diet, health, and nutrition website http://www.wineinyourdiet.com/ and his global wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com/.