Sunday Dinner – Grenache Noir

Man what a day… I mean seriously, an entire day of sitting on the couch watching House of Cards.  If that doesn’t merit a good dinner and a beautiful bottle of wine than I don’t know what does ;).  Yes, thats right… ALL DAY, ALL DAY watching House of Cards.  Lyon has turned from cold to freezing… this California girl is FREEZING.  So we stayed indoors all day, caught up on our good American TV series, and then rewarded ourselves with a wonderful meal.  What was our wonderful meal… Sunday dinnerPorterhouse Steak with a smoked paprika mayonnaise accompanied by Domaine Ogier Côtes du Rhône Le Temps est Venu.  This wine is a base of grenache noir and syrah.  Let’s talk grenache noir a little bit…

Grenache Noir is a grape with a sugar content… HIGH sugar contact equals HIGH alcohol content.  Therefore it often ends up having high alcohol content and less fruit taste.  The winemaker has a difficult job of keeping the alcohol level down, while simultaneously converting all the sugar to alcohol.  Not easy.  Most often it is blended with other grapes of a lower sugar content and therefore a lower alcohol content.  When made as a single varietal, often times, because of the high sugar content it is a wine that works very well as a late harvest or sweet wine.

Le Temps est Venu is a bright fruit, strawberries and tart cherries with higher alcohol and mild tannins.  For me it is difficult to drink all by itself, but explodes with the right food.  For Sunday dinner, I choose to pair this wine with a very flavorful piece of steak as well as a mild fat sauce in the smoked paprika mayonnaise.  What I did, was cut a little bit the hot alcohol of the grenache noir and made it mild with the addition of the fat.  Together, they made for a wonderful winter dinner!!

Val des Rois 2010 Valréas

Valéras

Val de Rois 2010 Valréas

Côte du Rhône Village

Out with a friend Friday night for a little dinner and wine- nothing fancy and we didn’t want to think to much, but it was Friday, both are other half’s where out, and we weren’t about to cook, we also weren’t about to pay an arm and a leg to eat out. So we settled at a little place at the bottom of Croix Rousse, near the Rhone River. Nothing to write home about, but we did have a really simple, easy drinking bottle of red. And can you guess what it was?!? Yep- Côte du Rhône, shocking I know.

Quick notes-

This wine comes from a small village in the Southern Côte du Rhône near Vinsobres, called Valréas. It is made with 75% grenache noir and 25% syrah. It started out pretty spicy on the tongue… really bright with dark fruits. Not at all was I was expecting from this little region. There was not a lot of finish, that was something I was expecting, but was happily surprised by the linger on the tongue. It was chalky… made me want food.

Fortunately, I had choosen ad chorizo pasta and the spicy chorizo with the wine worked wonderfully! My friend however chose salmon pasta and the wine pairing was (and I quote her) ‘well, the wine takes over completely’. Hahaha- an example of the food being good, the wine being good, but when put together- I think it killed her meal.

Syrah, Syrah, Syrah… Grenache.

So, I do live in the Rhône Alpes region of France.  Therefore, I drink every form of syrah and blends of syrah ALL THE TIME!  Now, my husband LOVES it.  He could not be happier- coming from the south where syrah is the main grape varietal.  Don’t get me wrong, it is interesting to drink all these different types of syrah and blends of syrah and blah, blah, blah…  but there is such a thing as overload, oh my goodness!  Fortunately, when there is a syrah overload we can move south to find grenache as the main varietal and syrah as support.  Therefore, entering into a grenache overload… here we go.

Anyway, my husband’s family was here the other week and we went to a small restaurant at Les Halles Paul Bocuse called AOC.  Excellent restaurant, by the way.  The AOC specializes in different cuts of beef with a well-rounded wine list- something you don’t always find in Lyon.  It was an excellent meal!  If you come to Lyon anytime soon- I highly recommend it!

For dinner we had two different bottles of wine from the Southern Rhône region, very small regions that you normally don’t find very far away from France.  Originally, we wanted to start off with a bottle of Vinsobres.  Vinsobres is a small appellation in the northern part of the Southern Rhône region.  I, personally, have found mostly organic and biodynamic wines from this area, giving it a more ‘dirty’ taste than others in the region.  Unfortunately for us, the restaurant was out of the wine.  So, we decided to stay within the same area, but move a little more south to Rasteau.

RasteauRasteau is again a small village in the southern part of the Rhône region.  In general, it is considered under the larger umbrella of Côtes du Rhône-Villages.  That is, (at the very basic of meanings) means that the wine has to comply with certain rules and regulations of the Côtes du Rhône-Village.  And just as a side note, all Côtes du Rhône-Village and Côtes du Rhône AOC are found in the Southern Rhone region, other than that the difference in the two names is the quality, Côtes du Rhône-Village is of a superior quality to the Côtes du Rhône.  Now, on taste, it was a little too soon to be drunk.  Unfortuantely.  The Grenache Noir (at 70%) was still maturing, still a little too high in alcohol.  I like to call it HOT.  I don’t know where your palate is or what you like for your personal taste, but I like the finish of a wine.  The longer it stays on my tongue the better and this wine, unfortunately, didn’t appease that part of my palate.

But not to fear… there was a second bottle.  A Sablet. Sablet

Do you know Sablet?  Me either at the time I drank it.  I could figure out the basics by the appellation, the AOC, and general taste… but had NEVER heard of the region Sablet before.  Now, normally I would feel pretty bad about myself for not knowing this and having claimed to specialize in French wines once upon a time…. but at the same time- EVERY region in France is a wine-growing region and so I have chosen to take the approach where I learn the most I can from the person who serves me.  In this case the waiter was very knowledgeable and easily understood.

Sablet is like the little sister of Rasteau, with characteristics that all little sisters can embody sometimes.  In this case, the Sablet was ready to be drunk at that moment.  It was spicy like a grenache should be with a finish of dried fruit and dirt.  The nose was a little less expressive, although the hints of bright fruits expressed stronger than what I found on the palate.  However, the end was what interested me.  It tickled the back of my throat and lingered for a while, with the cut of meat (called poire de boeuf) it was a nice mix.

AOC Lunch

 Often with the Côtes du Rhône, there is a difficulty in understanding the subtleties of different regions because they are so close together and will often times give a similar taste.  For myself, when I focus on the finish of the wine I can usually tell more about the region.  What do I mean?  Well, for the Southern Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the king, Gigondas the queen, Vacqueyras the prince and then the court is everything around it- Vinsobres, Rasteau, Sablet, Tavel, Lirac, Ventoux, and the list goes on.  If you do a tasting of five of these regions for example… you will find that the finish changes on each (along with other things, but I am focusing on the finish).  The finish goes from more mature, rounded and deep in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape to lighter and shorter in the Rasteau, for example.  It is a fun exercise to do if you can find it (and afford it).

I will try and find it and maybe display if for you later…  I’ll start saving 😉