There are times when I almost feel sorry for snobby French wine producers. There they were one minute, bowling along in their vintage 70’s Citroen DS, undisputed kings of the vinicultural universe. They could make any old crap and if the customer didn’t like it, pah! it was because they didn’t have a good enough palate.
Then, suddenly, there was a screeching of brakes and the Aussies came roaring round the corner in a Ute, showering them in Shiraz and cheap cabernet sauvignon blends. The Spanish were next, clattering past noisily in an oak-lined lorry and mispronouncing grenache as garnacha. Then a huge cloud of dust heralded the arrival of the South Americans, bragging about their phylloxera free ancient vines and rediscovering Carmenere and Malbec. The French were, quite literally, run off the road.
Worse than that, the punters stopped matching wine with classic French cookery, or whatever was the nearest equivalent in Scunthorpe. Les rosbifs weren’t even eating roast beef any more: instead, they were branching out into Indian, Chinese, Thai, all sorts of cuisine that the vignerons certainly hadn’t had in mind when working up the latest claret. And to cap it all, the power of the supermarkets was such that the sans culottes expected not to have to remortgage their house to get a decent drop to go with the Tuesday night curry.
Sacre Bleu! As the French, almost certainly, never really say.
However, signs are that they’re finally fighting back, and where better to try some of the latest offerings out than Aldi, one of our increasingly-popular discounters. As recommended by Jane MacQuitty in the Times on Saturday, we decided to give a couple of bottles of French red a try. These were: Pinot Noir, Vignobles Roussellet (no vintage specified) £4.39; and Plan de Dieu, Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2012; £6.49.
The food matching wasn’t as hard as it could have been. First night was the Redoubtable Mrs F’s sausage stovies, something of a legend in our household: not exactly the same as cassoulet, maybe, but red meat at least; second night was my Portuguese roast chicken, with potatoes, red onions, garlic, and lashings of lemon in the mix.
The verdict? Fill your boots with both! The pinot noir is one of the easiest drinking wines I’ve ever tasted: on its own, with both dishes, and with the Manchego cheese for afters, it subtly alters its flavours but is never tannic. The Rhone is a bigger, burlier sort of chap, but very drinkable: probably better with a heftier meat dish to be fair.
Now, what wine goes with tonight’s halloumi/prawns/lime juice and chilli combo, I wonder….
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