Spring is here! Some have experienced a slow defrost over the past few weeks and are already experiencing the awakening of plants and trees. Others are still buried under piles of snow. Regardless of the weather, the calendar says today is the spring equinox. Prepare to pack away your parka because sunny days and warmer temperatures on their way. Springtime in the South of France is particularly inviting. Wild lavender begins to bloom, filling the air with rejuvenation and relaxation. Whatever part of the world you reside, let the South of France come to you this spring with wine.
The South of France has a warm Mediterranean climate. In the spring the nights are still cool as the days slowly begin to warm. The often violent mistral and tramontane winds that blow throughout the winter subside, allowing the temperate Mediterranean breeze to gently bring in warmer air. It is a glorious time to experience the South of France.
While most of us cannot spend spring in the South of France, we can experience a slice of it where ever we may be by enjoying wines from and inspired by this region. Wine regions comprising this part of France include the Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence, and I am going to add Rhone Valley. Significant grape varieties in these regions include Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Rolle, Picpoul, Grenache Blanc, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, and non-indigenous international varieties of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
When thinking of Provence wines in springtime rosé comes to mind. This style of wine captures the essence of the French art of Mediterranean living better than any other wine. However, in addition to benchmark rosé, Provence also produces red and white wines. While in Provence in the fall of 2016, each producer I visited crafted lovely red and white wines in addition to rosé. This spring is a great time to expand your Provençale wine enjoyment to include all colors.
2016 Domaine de la Sangliere Prestige Côtes de Provence France ($13): 100% Rolle (Vermentino); pale lemon; medium- aromas of acacia, under-ripe stone fruit, citrus, under-ripe tropical fruit, trailing vanilla; crisp and refreshing on palate with a soft complexity that does not hinder the medium+ acidity from 6 months of oak aging; perfect as an aperitif or to enjoy with light spring fare
2015 Domaine Saint Andrieu L’Oratoire Coteaux Varois en Provence France ($14.99): 51% Syrah, 49% Cabernet Sauvignon; medium+ ruby; medium aromas of black cherry, black currant, black berry, spice, dried roses, dried tobacco, dried savory herbs, smoke; rich and round on the palate, balanced medium+ tannins and acidity, medium body
2014 La Bravade Torpez Côtes de Provence France ($18): 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Carignan, 15% Mourvèdre; deep ruby; medium+ aromas of black cherry, black berry, red currant, plum, dried roses, spice, kirsch, dried fruit, dusty earth; full body wine with lots of heft, rich and broad with pronounced tannins, medium+ acidity, and a long earthy finish
The Rhône Valley is not exactly the South of France but it is close in proximity, especially Southern Rhône, and it shares the same grape varieties. Furthermore, once the mistral winds subside in the spring, the Rhône Valley experiences some warming from the Mediterranean Sea as well. Rhône Valley wines are food friendly wines, ideal enjoyment for any time of year. Add Rhône Valley to your springtime food pairing enjoyment.
2015 Ferraton Pere & Fils “La Matiniere” Crozes-Hermitage France ($23): 100% Syrah; deep ruby; medium+ aromas of black cherry, black berry, black raspberry, red currant, spice, olive tapenade, smoke, cured meat, black pepper; a full-bodied wine with balanced medium+ tannins and acid, rich and elegantly restrained, savory, over-delivers for its price
2015 Ferraton Père & Fils “Samorëns” Côtes du Rhône France ($14): 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Cinsault mostly from northern Rhône biodynamic vineyards; medium ruby; medium aromas of black cherry, raspberry, cranberry, black berry, spice, black pepper, licorice, vanilla; medium body, medium tannins and acidity, juicy and easy drinking, a crowd pleaser of good value
Roussillon does not receive enough attention as a wine region. Located on the Mediterranean it sometimes takes a back seat in recognition to Languedoc. Côtes du Roussillon is a rugged mountainous region that perennially produces high quality wines at value prices. Famed Rhone Valley winemaker Michel Chapoutier embraces this region as home to his Bila-Haut wines. These wines have long been favorites of mine. I enjoy sharing them with friends because they are value priced and well over-deliver. If you have never had these wines the time is now for spring enjoyment.
2016 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc Côtes du Roussillon France ($15): Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeu; pale lemon; medium aromas of acacia, stone fruit, citrus, under-ripe tropical fruit, crushed stone; crisp and mineral driven palate, refreshing, medium+ acidity, crowd pleaser
2016 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge Côtes du Roussillon France ($15) Syrah, Grenache, Carignan; medium ruby; medium aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, strawberry, red currant, dried savory herbs, spice, lavender, graphite; medium body wine, balanced fresh fruit and dusty earth with a pleasant garrigue and mineral vein, medium tannins and acidity, way over delivers for the price
The South of France is about a certain style of living. This is exemplified in the grapes and the wines. However, there are other regions of the world that also produce wines inspired by the South of France. One such region is Applegate Valley, Oregon and the winery making these wines is called Troon. I am not suggesting Troon wines taste like they come from the South of France, they do not. However, Troon embraces many of the same grapes due to favorable climate conditions as well as the French low intervention winemaking style. Therefore, I believe while seeking out wines from the South of France to enjoy this spring, add Troon wines to your list.
“While people often say we follow an old world-style at Troon, I always have to say we are actually following an Applegate Valley style. Certainly we have been inspired by the great wines of the Mediterranean as we conceived these wines. We selected the varieties we grow on our estate based on the similarities of our climate and soils to Languedoc and Sardegna, but our winemaking style evolved based on what works best here in the Applegate Valley. The traditional winegrowing and winemaking techniques (or should I say lack of them) we use was something we believed in and why we chose to come to the Applegate Valley to make wine in the first place. It makes perfect sense to me that the minimalist, natural winemaking that works so beautifully in the Mediterranean also shines here in Southern Oregon. I believe people describe our wines as Southern French in style because they have similar textures, acidity and alcohol levels. Our wines, like their best wines, reflect the place they were grown more than the hands of the people that made them. We certainly have more in common with wines from Southern France than we do with California or Washington wines, but our wines are also distinct in their own right, often being more delicate and floral due to our higher altitude vineyards and the cooling influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean. As a young wine region, we are always flattered and honored to be compared to the great wine estates of the Mediterranean.” ~ Craig Camp, Troon Vineyards
2016 Troon Blue Label Vermentino Cuvée Rolle Applegate Valley USA ($20): 90% Rolle (Vermentino), 10% Marsanne; pale gold; pronounced aromas of honeysuckle, stone fruit, tropical fruit, citrus, Chinese 5 Spice, cedar; elegant and round on the palate, a touch oily (characteristic of Vermentino) but balanced out with medium+ acidity, medium+ body, a sophisticated food wine that coats the palate, leaving a long voluptuous finish
2016 Troon Blue Label Kubli Bench Blanc Applegate Valley USA ($25): 55% Marsanne and 45% Viognier co-fermented; pale gold; pronounced aromas of fresh white flowers, citrus, ripe stone fruit, ripe tropical fruit, spice, toast; rich and round on the palate, an elegant wine with medium acidity, textural, mouth-coating, long lush finish
2016 Troon Blue Label Grenache Rouge Valley USA ($25): 100% Grenache; medium ruby; medium aromas of red and black berries, spice, fresh picked violets, white pepper, cedar, trailing vanilla; medium+ body, fresh and light, elegant and contemplative, balanced medium tannins and acidity, refreshing, serve slightly cool for springtime enjoyment