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Chez Thierry, Nassau, Bahamas

12th article

by Thierry Boeuf in The Tribune (October 19, 2001)





« The famous corridor «  


After some months when I have been to busy organising my new wine store to write even one line I come back with the intention to offer you some more descritons and flavours of the wines of the world.

To start with the wine appellations, I feel like speaking about a great and old wine region of France that is only getting now the full recognition it deserves for the quality and the diversity of its wines. This appellation is the « Côtes du Rhône » and it is located between Lyon the second city of France, in the south east, and Avignon the former capitale of the Popes in the fourteenth century. This appellation is in the valley of the Rhône, a large river that goes down from the Swiss Alps, through this quite narrow valley between two big mountains, and reach in the South the Mediterraneen sea in the plains of Camargue.

More than two thousand year ago the Romans invaded Gaule the opposite way, they came through Provence and walked north and this is how the first vineyards were planted along the banks  of this very large river, that has been sometimes nicknamed river of wine given the number of appellations lining in this valley.

We usually separate the Côtes du Rhône wines in two families, quite different. The Northern part just south of Vienne has a continental climate and the types of wines are very distinct from the Southern part, around Avignon which is definitely a Meditterranean city by the climate and the style.

In the North the landscape is surprising for someone who would expect large vineyards like in most other areas. The slopes are so strong that it is hardly possible to work in the vineyards with machines and there is even a vineyard called Montrecul meaning show the bottom because the women picking the grapes there cannot avoid showing their pants to those working lower.

The most exclusive appellation, Château-Grillet has only one owner and is the smallest French appellation but it is worldwide famous. This white wine is made from Viognier, a grape becoming trendier everyday and many other countries are starting growing it. From the same grape, I am very proud to say that I can offer the neighbor, the great Condrieu to the wine-lovers and many connoisseurs regard it as one of the top appellations in white wines. It is probably even truer for the next whites, the Hermitages, made from the grape varieties Roussane and Marsane. The red wines from this northern part, are as famous as their white counterpart, they are Cornas, Saint-Joseph, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage. The main variety used for these red wines, is the Syrah, which makes splendid, full-bodied wines with bouquet of Iris, Violets, red fruits and often spices.

Those wines, red like white are among the great wines that can age for many years if they are kept properly and I still have a vivid memory of one tasting, about twelve years ago, where we had several white Hermitage between forty and seventy year old. They had the richness of bouquet that only the great old wines can provide and I wish everybody could experience it at least once because it really changes the way you see wine.

            Further south there are famous appellations too. The sweet white Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise is probably the best-known Muscat and I remember with pleasure the reaction from my student in wine tasting last year when I finished the course with this golden nectar with its honey, acacia, grilled almonds bouquet. The best-known appellation from the south Côtes du Rhône is Châteauneuf-du-Pape meaning literally New Castle of the Pope because this one of the places where the saint men chose, I know why, to have their mansion. Producers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are authorised to use 13 different grape variety like the rest of the region to make their white and red wine wines. Those powerful and round wines have addicts all over the world and the new fame of the whole Côtes du Rhône is going certainly to increase this popularity.

The wines from this region have in common to never be acidic and they often have some spicy flavours that match perfectly spicy food like the one many people like it here in The Bahamas.

If you ever go to visit this region of France you will also discover that the gastronomy is as famous as the wines and many of the Michelin-three stars retaurant are located there, I have to stop here because I start feeling hungry and thirsty