As I told you yesterday, my trip to the south of France was all about wine. They say that a wine grower doesn’t grow grapes, he grows wine. So what’s so special about growing wine you ask? While visiting the area it became very clear that the making of wine is a labor of love. It takes a big investment of money and especially time. For example, it takes a farmer several years before he can even make living out of it’s new plants. They have to wait approximately 4 years for the vines to be strong enough. In some winemaking cooperatives (where farmers join forces to produce the wine) they even have to wait until the wine that is delivered gets sold to the end customer. They often say that one plants its vineyards not for himself but for his grandchildren.
What I remember most about this trip is that wine doesn’t judge. But how can you tell which wine is good and which one isn’t. It all comes down to your own taste, you have to decide for yourself whether you like a wine or not. And no, this is not necessarily dependent on the area where the wine is from or even how expensive it is. It all depends on your own precious senses. We all smell and taste differently. If you’re tasting the most well-known wine of the area, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but you don’t like it, then for you it is simple not a good wine. Just make sure that you taste it correctly and there won’t be a wine grower in the world that will tell you otherwise. Find out how to taste below!
Ok but let me explain a little bit about what I’ve learned. First of all, the basics. All types of wine (red, white, rosé) can me made out of red grapes. It is the time in which they leave the skins in with the juice that determines the color of the wine (& the taste). What creates the alcohol in the wine is the sugar content in the grapes with addition to yeast. How sweet you want the wine determines the time you allow the fermentation process to convert the sugar into alcohol. For example if they want to make a muscat wine which is sweeter, they will stop the fermentation process early to keep the sweetness, but add in alcohol at a later stage. Another fun fact, did you know that the vines in the Rhône area don’t actually consist of a French plant? To have a stronger plant, they merge a baby plant from the States with a French baby plant.
In the end what is most important for these growers is which label they can put on their wine. This states what wine it is, which quality and how much you can ask for it. There are however about a gazillion rules to be followed for you to be able sell your wine with a certain type of label. Meaning if you can put the high quality label ‘Grand Cru’ on the bottle or you have to put a tablewine label on it (the lowest quality, meant for cooking, etc.). I started writing this post in Vacqueyras which is in the Vacqueyras appellation and is one of the 16 Cru’s du Rhône, so the best wine that I could look for is a Cru de Vacqueyras. But if I would go a little further to the appellation of Séguret, they are not allowed to name their wine a ‘Cru’ and will name all wines a Côte du Rhône. Which label you can give your wine all depends on a combination of factors such as
– the area in which the vines are (which is referred to as the appellation)
– the ground (aka the soil: clay, dry and stony, etc.) on which the vines are grown
– the quality of the grapes
– the age of the vines
– which blend of grapes you use (Côtes du Rhône are one of the few wines that is almost always made with several types of grapes)
– whether you are making a red, rosé or white (most Côtes du Rhônes are red), etc.
Yes it does get a little bit complicated. But now you’ve got the basics just like me. I told you in the beginning of this post that I don’t know wine. Well now I do! So if you have some questions come on knocking. Or if you want to have a taste of the delicious wines I got to take home, my door is always open. Tomorrow, I’ll be telling you all about the best spots around the area!
Read about part one of my trip here!