“If you had to choose…” is an often heard turn of phrase across Majestic stores. Naturally, the question tends to be based on choosing a wine, sparking much fervent debate. With so many wines in the Majestic range, we really are spoilt for choice. Chris and Phil at Majestic Sonning have one such musing…
Phil and I were pondering, if we were forced to drink wine from only one country in the world which one would it be? Having spent literally seconds pondering Phil blurted out “France“. Argument over. This has got me thinking about the magic that is French wine. Could I lose the excitement and quirkiness of Italian reds for a claret? I love Valpolicella Ripasso, and would miss it, but nothing beats the excitement of pulling the cork on a 10 year old left bank and wondering if the ageing process is ongoing, complete, or, horror of horrors should have been left a further 5 years. The magic of opening that perfectly aged bottle when the tannins and colour have combined to form the oh so perfect sediment. Bordeaux is a special case I hear you cry and I agree, it’s very special.
I will however move on to my favourite grape Pinot Noir. Kiwi Pinots are lovely, as are some excellent examples from across the new world (EQ Pinot Noir being a personal fave), however I couldn’t lose the intellectual and emotional exercise of buying red Burgundy. Choosing the right producer, area, vineyard, vintage are all what makes Burgundy so special and the feeling when you have got it right, when the factors combine to make a truly magical moment in your day are nearly unrivalled. I say nearly because of white Burgundy. Puligny, Meursault, Corton Charlemagne, Ladoix and Chablis. All these names serve to deliver the Chardonnay grape in its most elegant form and give such an exquisite drinking experience, that some would argue, improve ones quality of life. Although the New World have some fantastic Chardonnay (and are certainly cheaper) I would miss the magic that Burgundy brings.
“nothing beats the excitement of pulling the cork on a 10 year old left bank”
When the “big guns” are removed from the argument I thought the search would become more difficult and therefore interesting. New Zealand Sauvignon was mentioned and the Loire suddenly jumped into conversation. Now before a raging argument over New Zealand Sauvignon begins I have a frank admission to make. I like it. It’s fun, fruity and enjoyable. I also love Loire Sauvignon Blanc with Sancerre and Pouilly Fume being world class. However the Loire is more than a hot bed of Sauvginon Blanc. The reds are delicious (Chinon springs to mind) and the sweet wines are wonderful. Western Loire offers seafood friendly whites that are crisp and lean and perfectly match a Fruit Du Mer.
Phil is really excited by German Riesling and I agree they are stunning and offer the drinker an interesting alternative for food-matching as well as being super on their own. However, Alsace offers world class Rieslings (eg. Trimbach) as well as Gewürztraminer that is light and elegant and Pinot Noir that is complex and really different from anywhere else in the world. They might not be fruit forward like Australian Rieslings (who are making serious names for themselves as Rieslings producers) but offer an elegant white wine with a lovely mineral streak. As Phil says “I love Riesling and I always fall back on Alsace”.
Having mentioned Australia brings me to our friend Shiraz. Those big punchy wines that offer fruit and black pepper in abundance are a treat and have transformed the world of wine. Surely France has no match for these staples of the New World. The answer is found in the Rhône where Syrah was born. Artistic license I admit, but it has flourished here and can be found planted throughout the valley. Côtes du Rhône offers simple yet hearty wines for those in love with punchier flavours. Then there is the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a wine that seems to be everyone’s first favourite wine. An exciting blend of up to 13 grapes that can age wonderfully. As for the whites Condrieu is sublime and shows the Viogner grape at its pinnacle. Expensive yes, but worth it, YES!
Even as I write more French wines spring to mind… Beaujolais, Provence Rosé, all the regional varieties… yet more reasons to drink nothing but French wine. Yet all being said, perhaps it was Winston Churchill who summed it up best…
“Remember gentlemen, it is not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”