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By The Glass


Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Experience country wines
from the south of France

This week, I thought it would be fun to taste some "country" wines from southern France.

"Country" to me means more casual, more immediately friendly and usually lower in cost. "Country" means a style of wine one would sip at a cafe, bistro or at home with a home-cooked meal.

Besides offering something tasty, authentically regional and probably very different from what you are used to, these wines also offer some real values. Come on, let's be adventurous.

1999 Domaine de la Gautiere ($12 to $13 a bottle) is an absolutely delicious, light- to- medium-bodied, organically minded red from Provence. Among the cherry, earthy, peppery aromas, are wonderful nuances of lavender, violets and olives, which the estate is equally famous for producing. (Must be the bees, they say.)

This would be a fabulous selection for Thanksgiving's roast turkey. Just remember to serve it slightly chilled. Imagine, turkey and a taste of Provence, found in as au naturale a wine as you can find.

1999 Domaine du Poujol ($12 to $13 a bottle) is another tasty and intriguing "country" wine from southern France, near Montpellier. From magnificent, well-exposed, very rocky slopes comes this surprisingly elegant, deliciously rustic Merlot blend. Though relatively uncommon for this style of wine, the unusually high percentage of Merlot gives the wine a wonderful plumpness in the mid-palate yet thankfully does not take away from its southern Frenchness or its "country" style at all.

Foods? Think grilled steaks (with a few dried rosemary branches thrown on the fire at the last moment), peppered rib-eye, smoked meats, or even roasted chicken. It's also a well-founded choice for Thanksgiving dinner. Recent accolades in Wine Spectator magazine will have this wine selling fast; buy it while you can.

1999 Gigondas, Michel Faraud "Domaine du Cayron" ($32 to $35 a bottle) is a hearty, rustic, soulful red that comes from the southern Rhone Valley of France, not far from Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

I've waited anxiously for the new release of this wine every year since the 1978 vintage. The 1999 has fabulous ripeness and richness without taking away from its resounding sense of place or the integrity of its old soul. Sadly, fewer and fewer wines display "terroir" and soul like this, which is exactly why you should try it --please -- before a new generation decides to change it, as have so many others.

Definitely rustic and not for the faint-hearted, but profound and provocative nonetheless. If you are a hunter, savor this wine with fowl, venison or boar -- stewed, smoked, roasted or grilled. If not, here is a simple braised oxtail recipe for you to try with this wine and a group of special friends:

Season oxtails with salt and pepper, dust with flour and then brown. Place in a deep pan with coarsely chopped carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes and a little celery. Fill the pan a quarter way with unsalted chicken stock, then cover and bake until tender.


Chuck Furuya is president of Fine Wine Imports and Hawaii's only master sommelier. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.

This column is a weekly lesson in wine
pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
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