Posted by: tomciocco | September 5, 2014

IN PRAISE OF VINS DE PAYS

The great wine nation of France is positively brimming with super prestigious (and super expensive) wines: grand cru Burgundy, classed growth Bordeaux, Sauternes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Montlouis to just hit the highlights. There is another vast world of more basic though often very expressive and terroir-driven wines that are made all over France, many of which are not exported, but that can provide another view of wine, and they go by the name of vins de pays ( pronounced “van deh payee”).

The name vin de pays translates as “country wine” and that’s precisely what they are – bottlings that are not held to as many rules and standards as are the prestigious A.O.C. are, but wines which, because of their rusticity, often better capture the places from which they come. Once upon a time, many if not most vins de pays were sold locally, often in large demijons, and intended for everyday consumption. But as the demand for the more prestigious wines like the ones outlined above began to rise globally, many winemakers saw the opportunities for more sales, and a trend to make vins de pays with a little more polish and consistency was born.

 And so we come to this particular wine which is a vin de pays d’oc (country wine from the so-called Languedoc) from the Aude department in the Mediterranean southwestern corner of France. This area is a very dry and sun-drenched part of the country that contains landmarks such as the Carcassonne castle and the ancient Roman city of Narbonne. The land in this region is quite rugged and rocky and the wines that come from it reflect this character: deep, burly, powerful and intensely and rustically fruity.

 This cuvee` is a blend of 80% Cinsault and 20% Syrah grown on blocks facing the Mediterranean Sea on chalky silt and decomposing sandstone which brings to the wine an elegance not typically found in most vins de pays. Cinsault is typically red fruited and a touch spicy, but always with good alcohol levels, so to preserve the lighter purity of this variety, this portion of the blend is aged for just 5 months in stainless steel tanks. Syrah, which is chewy and dark, stands up beautifully to oak aging, indeed to increase the body and complexity in the final product, the Syrah musts age in oak. But this is after all still a “country wine” so the yeast used in fermentation is wild and local, and after blending, the wine is only lightly filtered.

 Don’t be confused – this is not a supremely refined and elegant wine, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up in gutsy, hearty earthiness and the ability to really paint a picture of its native land. Not all vins de pays are this good, but the ones that are can be as satisfying an experience as many an A.O.C.

 To match this wine’s strapping muscularity, I served toasts with Cantal cheese, roasted red peppers and mint, followed by a main course of monkfish braised with tomatos, potatoes and olives with rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf.

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Domaine De Boede Le Pavillon Pays D’Oc 2012

Bright, dark purple color with pink at the rim. Earthy and ever so slightly funky aromas of plum, black currant, cranberry sauce, chalk, underbrush, red flowers, licorice and allspice. In the mouth the wine is full-bodied and perfectly balanced with a fresh and vivacious acidity and smooth tannins and crunchy fruit flavors of cherry, boysenberry, strawberry preserves, and notes of bacon and roasted chestnut. Long sweet and sour finish. A great value.

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