WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

07 May 2014

Rhone: Rasteau and Loire: Quarts de Chaume

Or a couple of gratuitous red versus white "sweeties of the moment," which have nothing in common whatsoever but are both worth sipping and talking about. Let's start in the southern Rhone Valley with a 'port-style' speciality made by the co-op winery Cave de Rasteau, who are celebrating 70 years of the Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel (VDN, fortified sweet wine) appellation. To mark this, they've repackaged the bottles with a retro label (makes you think of those cute old French booze posters you still see around, occasionally, very much from the "drink this and live to 100" era of advertising, which is now considered on a par with terrorism in France), and you can get it as a gift pack in a nice tin cannister too (€19.50 cellar door). As for how it's made - the red at least, there's also a "golden" presumably 'tawny' style - crushed whole berries of old-vine Grenache are fermented on the skins with hand-plunging, then it's fortified and left to steep for longer before pressing and ageing in vats and large tuns. It has 16.5% abv and 90 g/l of natural residual sugar.
Rasteau rouge VDN - alluring nose/flavours of dried black fruits, kirsch, prune, stewed plum and liquorice with smoky tobacco edges; more savoury and meaty on the finish vs sweet baked fruits vs dark chocolate twist, some firm tannin and nice spicy oomph. Try with mature or blue cheeses, dark chocolate and choc nut desserts; or what about a fairly spicy lamb curry too?! Hercules Wines (UK) £10.95; O'Briens Ireland do the posher 'Signature' vintage red VDN for €19.49.

More Cave de Rasteau wines here: Rhône "reds of the moment" featuring their 2011 Ortas Tradition 'regular' red (posted July 13).
And another estate in Rasteau featured on this blog: Domaine Coteaux des Travers (posted June 12).

Also sweet - much sweeter probably - but 'lighter' too with only 11% abv, this classic luscious Chenin blanc from the Loire Valley is made from botrytis affected and/or shrivelled grapes ("depending on the vintage," as it says on their site) picked by hand passing through the vineyard three or four times. Try with fruit tarts (especially peach or apricot), a variety of cheeses (goats, blue, mature, soft, ewes...) or just pour a little over vanilla ice cream. It kept surprisingly well for two or three weeks in the fridge actually.
Domaine des Forges Quarts de Chaume 2007 - complex and everlasting nose of spiced honey, quince jam, dried apricot, sultanas etc. Lusciously sweet palate yet has nice fresh acidity underneath still and a certain lightness of touch, despite the intense honeyed fruit and long flavours/finish. James Nicholson sale price of about £14.50, usually twice that I think.

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