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French wines for the summer
By Geoff Bland

As I sit down to write, I am poolside at my house, sipping a chilled glass of Domaine de Figueirasse Rosé; it is a beautiful sunny day, and moments like this always make me think of France.

Whether in a sidewalk café in Paris or a small town in Provence, there is magic in that French air.

There is also magic in French wine, though sadly many American wine lovers never experience it. So with summer upon us, let's talk about French wine - forget the often confusing labels and complex appellation rules. We are going to talk about great wines to enjoy during the summer months.

In general, France is cooler than California. Because of this, French wines tend to be lower in alcohol and higher in acidity than their California cousins, both great attributes in warm weather. Following is a list of some of my favorites with approximate retail cost.

Domaine de Figueirasse Rosé, $10. A lovely, dry Rosé from the south of France, light salmon in color and packed with luscious strawberry-scented fruit, perfect on the patio or poolside.

Mas de Gourgonnier Rosé, $18. A more substantial yet still completely dry style of Rosé from Provence. The wine has lots of red fruit and spice, and it is a perfect companion to grilled chicken or pork. This wine has the flavor of a red wine but is best enjoyed chilled - perfect on those hot summer days.

Domaine de Pouy, $9. From Gascogne in the southwest part of France this wine is produced from the little-known Ugni Blanc grape.

It smells like a freshly sliced Granny Smith apple and tastes pretty much the same, bright and refreshing with no oak. A perfect patio wine; quaff on!

Chateau L'Estrille White, $12. This property lies in the Entre Deux Mers region of Bordeaux, and the wine is a blend of Sauvignon and Semillon grapes. Bright citrus character defines its aroma, and the same lemony character persists on the palate and makes the wine perfect with steamed mussels.

Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne, Les Setilles, $20. Leflaive is one of the finest estates in Burgundy, and as with virtually all Burgundian whites this is 100 percent Chardonnay.

The wine sees no new oak so the lovely pear and apple fruit shines through. There is some neutral barrel aging so it is quite creamy and rich on the palate. Marinate some shrimp in lemon juice and herbs, then fire up the grill.

Roger Neveu Sancerre, $30. From the village of Sancerre in the Loire Valley, this wine draws its mineral character from the limestone-rich soils of the area. However, it is the beautiful pink-grapefruit aroma and flavor that define this elegant style of Sauvignon Blanc. A great match with grilled scallops, it is also the perfect match with goat cheese.

Dominique Piron Beaujolais, $17. This is not the tutti-fruity style of Beaujolais that Georges DuBoeuf produces by the tank-car load.

This is a serious, stylish wine that has lovely red fruit, hints of cassis and spice and a very precise style. Chill this wine for 30 minutes, grill a herb-rubbed pork tenderloin and enjoy.

Chateau St. Martin Marsannay, $25. The small Village of Marsannay lies in the heart of Burgundy, and as with all Burgundian reds, this wine is 100 percent Pinot Noir. A big, rich, elegant style of Pinot this wine shows dark fruit and lovely oak accents, a perfect match for grilled salmon or lamb.

CDR Red, $12. A blend of Grenache and Syrah from the southern Rhone valley, this packs dark cherry and raspberry fruit with hints of black olive and cracked pepper.

This wine loves to be sipped with a big juicy burger topped with bleu cheese.

Chateau Caronne St Ghemme, $25. Most people think that to get great Bordeaux you have to break the bank - not the case at all. This Cabernet-Merlot blend has tons of ripe black currant fruit with notes of licorice and cedar; weighty and full-bodied, it deserves to be paired with the best steak you can grill up. I would suggest the Bunn Gourmet, USDA prime beef.

Now that you have some ideas, venture forth and enjoy some French wines. Enjoy your summer too - life is short and meant to be lived well. A good meal, close friends and a great bottle of wine are natural companions.


Story published Friday, July 3, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 4 )

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