I was recently listening to an audio book by Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk, once known as “The Wine Guy”) and he recommended trying a different varietal of wine every week for one year to expand your taste palate. Well, twist my arm! So, I will be featuring a new varietal each week with my experience and recommendations. My strategy is to start with wines I have am not familiar with and see where that takes me! If you would like to use this as your guide and find the varietal at your local wine shop, I would love to hear your feedback! Please let me know if you decide to join me on the “52 Weeks of Wine” journey!
Week 1: Languedoc
I deliberately chose to start this learning experience with a French wine for a funny reason, which I will share with you. In 2013 my husband was deployed to Kosovo and was authorized one four-day weekend for R&R with two travel days on your own dime. Many people did not take the opportunity because the cost of traveling home to the US for such little time or for families to travel to meet in Europe was so high. We were pre-kids and both active duty, so a flight to Europe for me was within our budget. We chose to meet in Paris and fly together to Bordeaux for our second wedding anniversary. My husband grew up in Northern California wine country, so we had been enjoying wine together since we first started dating (sshhhh…I was only twenty years old). I felt so fancy to be traveling to French wine country to enjoy some of the best wines in the world! We met up in Paris, which for any of the military families out there, you fully understand how exciting it is to be reunited with family at the mid-point or after a deployment. We then flew together to Bordeaux, rented a car, and drove to the incredibly beautiful small town of Saint Emilion. I minored in French at West Point and practiced minimally before our trip, but I did not realize that in these small towns, no one would speak English! At the time, my husband didn’t know any French (other than a couple inappropriate phrases), but since has become far more proficient than I am! So here we are, in this stunning French wine town, reunited after months apart, can hardly speak the language, but head over heels to be celebrating our second wedding anniversary together. We quickly get out to explore the town as it’s nearing dinner time (which, if you’ve been to Europe, you know is often much later in the evening than what we are used to in the US).
As we are entering the town of St. Emilion, we see a small tasting room and decide to go in. This, we learn in the upcoming days, is actually pretty rare. Tasting rooms are not as prominent in France as they are in California wine country. Because their wineries have been in existence for sometimes hundreds of years, they believe their notoriety is sufficient to sell their wines with little need to offer tastings, especially free tastings! There is also an expectation that you purchase wine when you taste. I’m not talking a bottle, we learned that is also somewhat insulting. They expect you to buy a case. So, in true American tourist fashion, we taste the wines, provide honest feedback (which they did not care to hear), buy one bottle, and head to dinner. We weren’t huge fans of this winery. The taste just didn’t compare to the big, bold, fruit-forward California wines that we love.
The trip was magical, we learned so much about wine, and it was an unforgettable vacation for both of us. But, the funniest take-away was that neither of us were quite fond of Bordeaux and St. Emilion wines! Hah! Maybe we should have figured that out before we went! So, I am determined to find French wines that I do like so when we travel back we can focus on those regions! I already have a suspicion but I’ll share that for future 52 Weeks of Wine articles.
Okay, so now you’re thinking, “cool story, Jen, but how was the Languedoc??”. Let me tell you!
I bought Gérard Bertrand’s 2013 Cap Insula Red from the Wine Gallery & Gourmet in Colorado Springs, CO for $10 as part of their 6 for $60 program. This Languedoc is comprised of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvédre, some of my favorites! You’ll soon learn that I have a huge affinity for full-bodied, fruit-forward California reds, so I do have that bias towards all wines that I taste, but I’ll try to stay objective! So, this Languedoc had a beautiful, deep purple color and all of the smells that I love in wine: a great profile of jammy fruits. But guess what: the taste is not heavy and fruity! It was actually fairly medium-bodied and had great earth tones! I usually drink reds in the evening but this is definitely a Fall afternoon, porch drinking wine. I paired this wine with a Thai Beef Noodle Salad (one our favorites) and gave it a four out of five corks rating.