Le Paradou – A Taste of Provencal Paradise

Perhaps it was my inner Peter Mayle and a not-so-subconscious desire
to live in the south of France, but in my early stages of vinophilia the
wines of the southern Rhone region seemed exceptionally enticing. They
fit my budget and fueled my aspirations to travel through the prism of
my wine glass. They made it easy to understand the concept of €œterroir,€ a French term of no precise translation that reflects a wine€™s ability to express a sense of time and place.

At
their best, wines from the Southern Rhone combine the three basic food
groups of animal, vegetable and mineral. Minerality comes from the stony
soils of most vineyards, swept clean by the fierce winds of the mistral as it roars down the Rhone Valley at various times throughout the year and trains vines at impossible angles.

Syrah
contributes smoky bacon aromas, while Mourvedre  adds sensuous
animalistic hints of leather and musk. Grenache, the main grape of most
southern Rhone blends, offers floral and herbal notes of violets,
lavender, thyme, sage and rosemary. Wine lovers call this character €œgarrigue,€
a word we like to use because we can pronounce it and for its power to
conjure the colorful countryside and market towns of Provence.

Someone asked me today what I meant by garrigue. He
wondered if Syrah from the Columbia Valley in Washington might express
the same enticing character. I responded somewhat diffidently that the garrigue is an expression of Grenache in southern Rhone wines as much as Syrah.

But the question lingered in my mind just as the garrigue can linger on my palate. Garrigue is
not an expression of a grape, but of a place. Perhaps to understand the
idea, you need to have been to Provence and smelled the thyme, the
rosemary, the fennel and sage,  and the dust of the mountains. You
need to have licked the sweat off your lips while hiking up the spiral
streets of a hillside village to watch old men playing pétanque in the town plaza, and
then contemplated the excruciatingly delicious choice of cool sanctuary
in the old stone church or the refreshing conviviality of the
streetside café and a pichet of the local rosé.

Hopefully, you chose both.

Le Paradou 2007 ($13),
a Grenache-Syrah blend from the Côtes du Luberon, a rugged,
mountainous area east of Avignon where Haute Provence stretches toward
the Cote d€™Azur, is beautifully floral, like a spring breeze wafting
through an herb garden in bloom. The wine has enough body and tannin to
bring these aromas down to earth, but it still might transport you to
the south of France.

Le Paradou is imported by Jon David Headrick Selections, of Asheville, N.C. It is distributed in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia by Michael Downey Selections.

Most of this post is excerpted from my January 14 Wine column in The Washington Post.

This entry was posted in France, Rhône, Washington Post and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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