Bad news for France; good news for you and me.
The bottom has fallen out of France's domestic wine consumption, down to one glass per person per day. Sacre bleu!
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Ross' choiceClos la Coutale
Clos la Coutale
• Suggested retail and availability: About $16 at wine and spirit shops and specialty stores (distributed by Vintage Wine Co., Des Plaines)
You've tasted Malbec from Argentina, now enjoy the grape grown in its homeland of southwest France. This blend of Malbec and Merlot offers concentrated elegance, with ripe red fruit flavors, bittersweet chocolate, tobacco and herb accents and long, full tannin. Serve with the generous flavors of Cahors or Chicago-like cured meats (saucisse de Toulouse or grilled brats), stews (cassoulet or chili), the richest poultry (duck breast or smoked turkey) or blue cheese (half-pound burger with Roquefort anyone?)
But don't cry for the French farmer or marketer; after all, these are the folks who convinced America to pay for water and eat snails.
The vignerons have diverted the tide of their cresting wine lake to the reportedly thirsty U.S. So on Bastille Day or any day, we can enjoy the great values that France formerly drank up herself, as well as some luxury labels.
Bubbly: Nothing compares to the elegance of Champagne; I recommend drinking producers including my favorite Pol Roger as often as possible for health and well-being. But Champagne's intricate production method and centuries of successful marketing command top dollar ($30 and way up). For value, turn to French bubblies produced outside Champagne, such as Ste. Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux ($12) with off-dry, peach/apple flavors and soft acidity, a delectable complement to lighter dishes, such as mousse, chicken salad or Brie and fruit.
Don't discount Rose: Rose is France's only increasing export. Not to be confused with cotton candy White Zin, French Rose is dry to dry-ish with strawberry flavors accented by refreshing acidity. Tavel produces powerful, peppery and elegant Rose, such as Domaine de la Modoree Tavel, $25. For less elegance and more fun, ask for Chateau Haut Sarthes ($11), a refreshing quaff to serve with cured seafood and meats (such as smoked trout and pate), dishes prepared with fruit (turkey with cranberries or chicken salad with peaches) and spicy cuisine (Indian curry and barbecue).
Red: Don't wait for prices to drop in the prestigious addresses. Asia is now the top market for Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone. But the list of excellent, great-value reds is too long for this journal and includes: La Vieille Ferme Rouge, a consistent best-value for decades ($7.99); Capucines Rouge, a stylish red for under $14; Domaine Karantes, full of deep red fruit, earthy accents and pleasing tannin, perfect with grilled meats, about $15; Les Jamelles Pinot Noir, the best Pinot Noir you can buy for $11, (if you can find it!); and Ross's Choice.
So whether you're dining at your favorite bistro or picnicking in the park, raise a glass of French wine to liberte, egalite and fraternite!
• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.