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It feels like summer is quickly coming to an end which means I must scramble to finish my study of French whites before it gets cold.  This post covers two whites I recently tried from lesser known regions of France.  In general, I am becoming a big fan of trying obscure varietals or wines from less prestigious regions because you can sometimes get a fantastic wine for a fantastic price.  That was definitely the case with these two whites that both cost $10.

White Wine from The Rhone Region

This is the first white from the Rhone region that I tasted this summer.  The Rhone Region makes lots of fantastic red wines that I have enjoyed over the years.  I was very curious to see what a white offering from this region was like.  The wine I tried was the 09 Belleruche Cotes du Rhone made by M. Chapoutier.  It had a fruity nose and was light in color.  The wine was very dry, slightly acidic but well balanced.  It reminded me more of a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre than it did of a Chardonnay from Burgundy.  The grapes used to make this wine are Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc.  The wine does not go through Malolactic Fermentation so it did not have any of that buttery taste popular in many California Chards.  Overall, the wine was so easy to drink.  Light enough for a hot summer day but had enough flavor to stand up to the much required and decadent snack plate prepared for the tasting.

Cheese & Salmon Snack Plate

I enjoyed some more of that decadent Brie with the Rhone white as well as what I consider the best pairing for slightly acidic French whites – the smoked salmon salad from Whole Foods.  The two are a match made in heaven and I feel a little less guilty indulging in this than the Brie.  Both, however, bring out the best in this wine.  I have already bought another bottle of this wine and hope that it does not become hard to find.

Picpoul de Pinet

A few days later, I tried a different white from the Languedoc-Roussillon of France, which is definitely not a prestigious wine region.  This is the second time I have had this wine and think it is lovely, especially for $10.  It has a tropical fruit nose – you can smell pineapples and grapefruit – but just a hint.  When you taste the wine though, it is bone dry which is the style I prefer.  Bone dry means it does not taste sweet at all even though in this case it smells like it might be sweet.  This wine is produced by Hughes Beaulieau and it a co-op wine.  My understanding is that a lot of small grape growers pool their grapes together to share the costs of making the wine.  Apparently this is common in Europe and I hope to learn more about this approach to wine production.

The grape used to make this wine is called Picpoul de Pinet which up until this summer I had never heard of.  It is a bright and acidic varietal that goes really nicely with seafood.  After I tried this wine with the cheese and salmon, I enjoyed the rest of my glass(es) with grilled red snapper for dinner and it was a perfect complement.

What did I learn from these two wines?

1. Find a store with a wide selection of high quality wines at a low cost and seek out a person who works there who will listen to what you like and want to try.  I never would have picked out these two wines on my own and I am so pleased that I was able to enjoy them.

2. Try varietals that are new to you, as well as regions that may be less prestigious.  You can get a great value and experience wines that are unique and interesting!

3. Enjoy wine with food.  The synergy created between food that complements a wine well is a wonderful thing.  I have found that I really experience what the wine is about once I have tried it with food.  You need to think about what would be a good pairing though because not all foods will enhance a wine.

Next up is a wine I know nothing about: Gruner Vetliner from Austria.  More to come on that tasting soon!

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