Monday, January 2, 2012
My ultimate New Year's resolution for wine Tour de France
IF YOU USE the Mayan calendar, you will know that it’s coming to the end of its 5,125-year cycle this year. If you’re also inclined to apocalyptic thinking, you might assume that the Mayan calendar’s expiration heralds the actual end of days, too.
While no dark horsemen are stalking my 2012 calendar, why risk assuming the end isn’t nigh when now is the time to make what might be your last New Year’s resolution? So, I resolve this year to try the best wines from France’s 12 wine-growing regions and treat myself to bottles from each region’s legendary producers. Call it a “wine bucket list”.
Here’s my year ahead, travelling anti-clockwise around the Hexagon:
January - The Loire’s bone-dry Muscadets and smoky Sauvignons are refreshing after Yuletide’s excesses, and Anjou rosés appeal, but a still Vouvray from legendary Domaine Huet and a Cabernet Franc Chinon from Domaine Joguet will add bouquet to the bucket.
February - Bordeaux lets you indulge your most aristocratic red and sumptuous sweet white wine urges. A Pomerol from Château Petrus will satisfy the former while a Sauternes from Château d’Yquem will do the rest.
March - The South-West caters for all, it’s Bordeaux on a budget. Bergerac and Buzet suggest lightweight Clarets, while Monbazillac is the sweet white wine. Cahors and Fronton do darker reds. But bucket space is reserved for a burly Tannat from Madiran’s Château Montus.
April - The Roussillon is an accumulation of contrasts – hot and cool, windy and calm, mountain and sea – producing correspondingly diverse wine styles, notably the complex Banyuls and Maury sweet wines. But into the bucket goes a dry white from Domaine Gauby.
May - The Languedoc does soft and fruity, rich and aromatic. A tangy Picpoul with lunchtime oysters precedes a spicy Pic Saint-Loup with the evening’s roast beast. But I’m adding the atypical Mas de Daumas Gassac to the list – because being a maverick is a Languedoc trait, too.
June - The Rhône Valley divides easily into two: while Syrah dominates the north, I’m instead bucketing a Viognier from Condrieu-based Domaine André Perret; Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the south’s epicentre, from where I’ll add a Grenache classic from Château Rayas.
July - Provence is delicious, almost creamy rosés by day; sunny, herbal and rich reds by night. Cézanne and Van Gogh’s pine tree-topped hillsides are also the source of the seriously sturdy, appellation-defying, must-bucket Cabernet-Syrah blends from Domaine de Trévallon.
August - No farewell would be complete without recognition of the generous, velvety charms of Gamay from one of Beaujolais’ ten cru villages. The pourrie (disintegrated) schist terroir gives Domaine Marcel Lapierre’s Morgon wine its structure and room in the bucket.
September - Burgundy’s prized Chardonnays and plush Pinot Noirs are unlike anything from neighbouring Beaujolais. Reason enough to bucket a bottle of Chablis from Domaine Raveneau and reds from the Rousseau, Leroy and La Romanée-Conti vineyards.
October - The Jura makes great wines from Burgundy grapes, but it’s a vin de paille from grapes dried and concentrated on straw mats from Château d’Arlay that I’m bucketing – and from the Savoie, a light, floral, evanescent Roussette-based white from Domaine André & Michel Quénard.
November - Pretty Alsace is the home of France’s spiciest white, the full-bodied Gewurztraminer, and Riesling, a lively balance of fruitiness and acidity – a bottle from Domaine Zind Humbrecht will satisfy a thirst for the former, and a world-beating Riesling from Maison Trimbach’s tiny Clos Sainte-Hune nearly fills the bucket.
December - The finest vintage Champagne imposes for an end of the world celebration, so top up the bucket with ice and add a Blanc de Blancs from Krug’s Clos de Mesnil, a bottle of Pol Roger’s Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill and a Cristal de luxe from Louis Roederer.
The end of the world predicted by sages and seers has never happened, of course, and those who anticipate it typically refer to the period afterwards as “the Great Disappointment”. But if you follow my advice, you won’t be disappointed. You will, however, be penniless. Happy New Year!
First published in The Connexion (January, 2012)