It’s always a pleasure to arrive in France for a tasting trip. We do so often enough now that we know which way to go for the luggage, where to grab a quick coffee, and whether we need to hustle for the TGV when the plane is late. (Making the TGV was a near thing this time thanks to a late flight out of Boston, and we were pretty relieved to see the bags spill onto the belt. The next three trains south were all booked up, and had we missed ours the whole schedule would have been thrown out of whack).
Rolling south on the train to Avignon is a preview of sorts. We push through early gray Paris skies and the vast agricultural plain south of the city; then through the familiar rolling hills of Burgundy with its mosaic of stone hedgerows and tile roofs; then we turn past Lyon into the Rhône valley and the eventual bright sun of Provence. It’s an outline of the days to come, when we retrace our route back north, sampling what France offers in each of its winegrowing regions.
There’s always a mix of the familiar and the new. By now we have a list of places we like to eat (and to avoid eating), and for many visits the routine is easy and the welcome warm. But for every trip we also have a list of possibilities accumulated since the last trip. And every vintage offers something new, as we learn the particularities of the past growing season and taste its impact on the wine.
We much enjoy the restaurants, assuring ourselves (and the IRS, if it asks) that we must eat well to stay in touch with the cuisine for which our wines are made. In that respect, France mixes the traditional and the new. There is something to the claim that France has lost its place at the forefront of the world’s cuisine. The old regional favorites still dominate the menus in many places, and while we love those dishes (foie gras being among our mandatory opening tastes), we find the most inventive and interesting dishes in non-traditional places. These days we’re more likely to consult Le Fooding than Le Michelin.
But traditional or experimental, the French both respect and enjoy the central place that food and wine have in the culture. As Americans, our instinct is to grab a sandwich jambon-gruyere for lunch and head to the afternoon’s business without much fuss; but more often now we accept the midday pause and simply order the plat du jour, which always comes with a bit of ceremony, plus a salad, a dessert, and a coffee. The evening meal, even more of an event, allows careful pairings of food and wine and a greater appreciation for their place in everyday life. We’re too American to do this the year round, but the rhythm of life in France provides much enjoyment for a couple of weeks. And, of course, we find wines to get excited about.
The May Futures include the wines of the Domaine Pierre Amiot, our first offering of Côte de Nuits reds from the superb 2015 vintage — something everyone is rightly excited about. There are summer favorites from the Alsace; wines in both colors from the upper Loire, and some very attractive wines from the Southern Rhône. Finally, there are three new wines from Bordeaux. In short, there is something for everyone.
Read the rest of the May Futures brochure here.