February here in Detroit was the second coldest on record. We've had several days recently with low temps below zero. Our temp this morning, Feb 28, 2015, was -3° F, or as Mary says, "There's a minus in front of our 3!" I took the photo you see here yesterday while I attended a meeting in downtown Detroit. The view is across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario. You can see the river is frozen almost completely across. The joke is that in winter you can walk from Detroit to Canada. The Coast Guard has an icebreaker that keeps the channel open for shipping. Quite a sight to see.
Here's a montage of snow photos on the deck in our back yard, digging out the barbecue grill. The neighbors probably think I'm strange, and they are probably correct.
Ok, that's the context for the title of the blog entry. Spring is on its way! In just a few more weeks, baseball season opens! I got an email announcing pre-arrivals of Bandol rosé at Morgan and York in Ann Arbor, one of our favorite shops for wine and cheese.
If you're one of our Michigan readers (either one of them) or visiting Detroit or Ann Arbor, Mary and I recommend visiting Matt Morgan and Tommy York. They're great folks with great products, a fun place to hang out and browse on Saturday afternoons.
So, thinking warm thoughts, Mary and I decided to have our own little private blind tasting of a couple of rosés from Provence. As you may remember from earlier posts from our travels, Provence is a region in southeast France on the Mediterranean, very sunny and warm. It is especially known for its rosé, refreshing and fruity, most popular during warm weather and with light summery fare. We enjoy it all year but we enjoy it most in warm weather.
There are lots and lots of producers of rosé in Provence. They are usually refreshing with brisk, food-friendly, lip-smacking, mouthwatering acidity and bright flavors of red fruit, readily available and not too expensive.
Here are the wines we compared. Domaine Tempier is a prestigious estate in Bandol, a particular part of Provence. Their rosé is in high demand and quite expensive for the category, about $45. La Vieille Ferme is produced in another Provence area called Ventoux. It is widely available in wine shops and supermarkets, delicious, and a great value at $8. We try to keep a bottle in the fridge at all times. Rules to live by.
Ok, right off the bat, we could easily tell them apart. The color difference is less noticeable in the glass than in the bottle, but the experience on the nose and in the mouth of the first wine, which turned out to be the La Vieille Ferme, was very characteristic. The aromas were of fresh berries and melon, perhaps some white floral notes. The palate was light-bodied with brisk acidity and flavors of fresh raspberry and strawberry, maybe a little bit of a spice note. The balance was really nice and the finish was short, barely over 10 seconds. Finish is the amount of time the flavor remains noticeable after swallowing the wine. The cépage, the blend of grapes, is Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah. The alcohol level is 12.5%, quite modest.
By contrast, the Domaine Tempier Bandol showed quite a different profile. The aromas were more floral and with a noticeable savory quality, a little gaminess, no doubt a reflection of the cépage, which is 50% Mourvedre. The other grapes in the blend are Grenache, Cinsault, and Carignan. The palate was round in comparison with the La Vieille Ferme, a bit lower in acidity, and clearly had more weight and density, even while finessed and elegant in its presentation. Red fruit notes were there, but riper in flavor, and there were also savory herb and spice characteristics. The balance was beautiful, it is a much more complex wine, and the finish was almost twice as long. The exact alcohol percentage isn't labeled, but I'm sure it's higher than the La Vieille Ferme, indicating the grapes were riper when harvested.
So, what can we say about the comparison? The Domaine Tempier Bandol is clearly a more complex, interesting, and serious wine, a wine that deserves attention and not simply consumed without thought, and a wine that pairs with serious food, what the French call vin gastronomique. Here's Veronique and her mother, LuLu at Domaine Tempier in 2013.
The La Vieille Ferme Ventoux is easy to drink, not too complex, doesn't require a great deal of contemplation, pairs with just about anything, just drink it down. Heck, keep a bottle in the fridge and sip on a glass while cooking. Throw a splash into whatever's on the stove. It's inexpensive and delicious.
What about the cost difference? Is the Bandol really worth five times more than the Ventoux? Probably not, but it's a value judgment that varies from person to person. Mary and I treat the Domaine Tempier as a bit of a special occasion wine, enjoyed on a weekend when relaxing, perhaps with some friends out by the barbecue grill or around the table, enjoying good food. At $8, the La Vieille Ferme is a terrific value. If you buy a case and get a 10% case discount, it's about $7 a bottle. Just can't beat that. So, for Mary and for me, both wines have their place, both bring pleasure, both enhance food, and both can be shared with friends. Isn't that what wine, food, culture, and people are all about?
Before you know it, we'll be enjoying flowers in the back yard and relaxing under the umbrella over the patio table!
That's our post for today. Thanks for reading us at Cépage et Cuisine. Post a comment and let us know your thoughts. And, as always, in the meantime,