By Celia Strong
Sometimes, we get a present that is so beautifully wrapped that we hate to open it. Sometimes, as beautiful as the wrapping is, the present inside is disappointing. Sometimes, the wrapping is really not great and the present inside is spectacular. Sometimes, and this is the fewest number of times, the wrapping is great and the present is great.
Well, guess what? It happens with wines too!
Before we go too far down the packaging road, let’s get today’s lesson out of the way.
To start, our wine comes from the Languedoc area of southeastern France; more correctly, the Languedoc-Roussillin area.
We have looked at Languedoc wines more than once. The area produces reds, whites, rosés and sparklings.
With about 700,000 acres of vines, it is the largest wine producing area in France … and in the world. (In 2001, they out-produced the United States!)
These are some of the oldest vineyards, tracing their history back to the ancient Greeks in the 5th century BC. Languedoc has belonged to France since the 13th century, and the Roussillon was acquired in the 17th century.
There are multiple AC wine appellations in this region, the largest being Languedoc, formerly Coteaux de Languedoc. The best known is Vin de Pay d’Oc. They grow a multitude of grape varieties, including, but not exclusively, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Picpoul, Bourbelenc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan (the oldest vines in France) and Cinsault.
Digressing for a moment, here’s a tidbit of Languedoc history that we haven’t learned before. The name “Languedoc” comes from the French words “langue” and “oc,” literally meaning the language of Oc. But, going back even further, the old French word for “yes” was the local word “oc.” Over time “oc” became “oil” which eventually became “oui.” (Suppose that means we can stretch Vin de Pays d’Oc to mean yes wine? Mmmmmm.)
Anyhow, we have two wines this week: the Côtes de Roses Rouge and the Côtes de Roses Blanc. And, yes, the Côtes de Roses is a small area in Languedoc.
Our wines are a red and a white from Gérard Bertrand, a company and wines that celebrate the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Both wines are Languedoc AC. Both, too, are in an extremely special bottle (package), created by a young designer from the École Boulle.
The Côtes de Roses red is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. These grapes are harvested separately, as each one is ripe enough, usually the Syrah first.
The crushed grapes are also macerated, for about three weeks, and fermented separately, so that the flavors and textures of each are achieved.
The blended wines are lightly fined and stored about three months before their release. This wine is a brilliant ruby red color with intense aromas of ripe red fruits, particularly strawberries, red cherries and red currants. These are wrapped in a baking spice coat with mild tannins and a silky texture. This wine is generous and fleshy in your mouth.
It’s perfect for just sipping or with many styles of food. Truly, try it with everything! For $13.99.
The Côtes de Roses white, also a blend, is Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Vermentino. Like its red brother, the grapes for the white are harvested and fermented separately in order to achieve the distinct characteristics of each variety and where it grew.
The grapes are cooled to about 46 degrees Fahrenheit before pressing. Cooler temperatures help enhance fruit flavors. Fermentation lasts 15 to 30 days. The finished wine is a pale yellow with gold tints. It has citrus and tropical aromas and flavors (lemon zest, kumquat, peach, tangerine, melon), floral notes like white roses (how apropos) and jasmine, pineapple and pear. All followed up with a refreshing mineral finish. Another perfect sipping and food wine. For $13.99.
Bottom line is this: The bottles for these wines force you to pick them up. Hold them. Feel them. Stare at them. Fortunately, the contents are just as great as the packaging.
Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.