By Celia Strong
Well, I’m not sure I really want to believe this but Thanksgiving is four weeks away. Good news but there is a pound of stress to go with it. All of which means too we have to start deciding on the menu and wine pretty soon. With that in mind, and just to add to the pressure, we have to make sure we have the right wine and enough wine for the whole day. It is, after all, a wine holiday. The challenge is to find the right wine at the right price so that we don’t kill our checkbooks.
To begin, let’s look quickly at how much is enough. For Thanksgiving, or any other holiday meal, there is a level of stress in most houses that requires a bit more wine just because. Then, there is all the cooking that needs doing — planning, shopping, timing — this is not a boil-in-bag meal. That’s at least another bottle per cook to keep the kitchen running smoothly. Then, there are all the extra friends and family who are just hanging out at you house while you work in the kitchen. Of course, you love to see them once a year, but let’s face facts, a glass or two in each of them makes the whole day work better. The way I do the numbers, you need a half bottle, 750 ml size, per person, another two bottles for every three people, plus one more for every hour they are in your house. Yikes! Obviously we have to be sure the wine is right and the price is right. And the winner is? Well, it’s from France. Specifically, it’s a Vin de Pays from southern France. Not a new one for all of us — we’ve had it in the store and in some of our glasses since last May. Red and white. A screw top so it’s easy to get at. And a really really great price. So, let’s get to it!
Vin de Pays literally means “wine of the country or countryside.” This level of wines in the French wine hierarchy was passed into law in 1979, way after the AC was in the 1930s. These wine carry a geographic origin designation and the producers have to submit their wines for analysis (Don’t want any funny stuff in there, you know!) and tasting, and the wines have to be made from certain varieties or blends. In addition, the laws for these wines control the number of gallons of wine that can be made per acre of grapes, minimum alcohol level, the amount of sulfur dioxide used to stabilize the wines, the amount of acidity in the wines, and the wine can’t be made with other wines. Because they are a lower level of wine, there is a bit more leniency with varieties and labeling. Now that I’ve told you all that, in 2009 the whole Vin de Pays category was replaced by the new “PGI” (Indication Georgraphique Protegee of Protected Geographical Region designation).
One more thing to learn about French wine labels. Our two wines this week come from the largest area of country wines, the Oc, located near the Languedoc-Rousillon area of the Mediterranean. Their labels state that they are Vin de Pys d’Oc. (Imagine coming from an area called Oc.) The winery name is Marc Roman. Marc is the wine maker’s name and Roman is part of his nickname that comes from all the pieces of ancient Roman pots and drinking jars you can kick up out of the vineyards themselves.
The red Marc Roman is from a grape we all know — Malbec. And, the great thing about this Malbec is it doesn’t taste like one from Argentina. This is a purple grape variety that makes wines with an inky dark color and robust tannins. It is a thin-skinned grape that needs more sun and heat to ripen well and brings with it a distinct plum flavor. Grown in the sun drenched vineyards of southern France, Malbec is a really happy camper. It makes a rich and smooth wine that is easy drinking. The warmth helps the tannins to ripen fully, hence the smoothness in this wine. And, besides the plum flavor, there are black spice notes and dark berry flavors in this one. As perfect as this wine is for every day use, it is especially well-suited for Thanksgiving dinner.
For the white Marc Roman wine we have to put on our learning hats — it is made from a grape called “Terret.” More officially, the grape’s name is Terret Gris, but the bottle just says Terret so that’s what we’ll use. Even though we’ve mostly never heard of this grape before, it has a very long history in the Languedoc area where it can make full-bodied wines with crisp acidity. This wine is fresh and juicy with smooth, rounded fruit flavors (citrus, a bit of grapefruit, green apple and a hint of spiciness like you get from Gewurztraminer) and floral aromas. As unique as this Terret is, it isn’t weird. Again, just perfect for Thanksgiving.
And, what about the price on the wines, you ask? Easy! They’re $6.99, both of them. So go ahead and get excited. They’re great wines and they’re priced right. You can make sure you have enough of them for your holiday, no matter how high your bottle count might go. Thanksgiving will be happy! Enjoy!