What: For summer sipping in the South you might want to turn to a southern wine: Cotes du Rhone from Southern France.
Grapes grown in the Rhone Valley can withstand the hot sun that bakes them. Cool winds from the Alps blow through the valley to help slow down the ripening process and help create complex flavors. This is a true southern wine made in a hot climate.
There are all kinds of Cotes du Rhone wines, and they come in a wide range of prices. So it is especially nice to find a high quality wine like Les Dauphins at such a good price.
In the glass, it is a beautiful ruby red color with fragrances of red fruit and blackcurrent. The flavors are rich and juicy, like digging into a summer fruit cocktail, with a hint of black pepper. The fruit is fresh and in your face, but it is not jammy or cloying. It is refreshing.
The Les Dauphins style is elegant, with soft tannins and everything in balance. It has a silky mouthfeel and a long, smooth finish.
This is not a wine to cellar. It should be drunk young to capture the fresh fruit explosion. It is probably better for a fun dinner with friends than for a fancy dinner party. I would serve this slightly chilled for the summer, though I think it also would be enjoyable at room temperature on a winter night.
Typical of Cotes du Rhone wines this is a GSM blend – grenache 70 percent, syrah 25 percent and mourvedre 5 percent. Most Cotes du Rhone wines from the Southern Rhone are blends that rely heavily on grenache. That helps give this wine its freshness.
The label looks like it comes from the 1920s when Les Dauphins wines became popular in Paris bistros.
Because there is such a wide range of Cotes du Rhone wines, you have to be careful because regulations there allow a lot of experimentation. Not all of those experiments turn out as well as the Les Dauphins, a wine cooperative that has been around a long time.
Winery: Les Dauphins is really a collective of growers and winemakers in the Dauphiné region of the Rhone Valley in southern France. In the 1920s, family winemakers in the region met in Paris and decided to join forces to produce wine that would match bistro food.
Bistros were all the rage in Paris, which was then regarded as the artistic and intellectual capital of Europe. Writers, painters and musicians met in bustling bistros to share and discuss their ideas over simple food and great wine. Ordinary people loved to show up and rub elbows with the glitterati.
The Dauphiné wines were popular in the bistros because of their fruit-forward style, rich flavors and the way they paired with classic bistro dishes.
New generations of winemakers and growers in the Southern Rhone Valley make their version of bistro wine from traditional Rhone varietals: grenache, syrah and mourvedre. These bistro wines enjoyed a revival in the 1990s and remain popular. The winemakers hope their wines inspire the joie de vivre that became the hallmark of 1920s Paris.
The current winemakers do more than just copy the 1920s formula; they have created many exciting blends. The New York International Wine Challenge named Les Dauphins the Rhone winery of the year in 2015 and 2016.
Goes With: We had this with grilled pork chops and baked potatoes. It was a great summer meal because I helped Clint Bryant cook the chops a few days before, so these were leftovers.
Every year when Augusta University athletes return to school Clint puts on a big cookout. This year he made pork chops and chicken leg quarters. My son, Michael, and I joined Clint and a couple of other cooking buddies, Little John and Roscoe. I always love cooking with those guys because we have a lot of fun while we cook, catching up on each other’s lives.
Clint cooks the chops and chicken at a low temperature for a couple of hours, basting them with his mop sauce made from apple cider vinegar, water, kosher salt, Morton’s Nature Seasons, red pepper flakes and garlic. The mop sauce keeps the meat moist and gives the meat a nice, tangy flavor.
We also had a couple of Georgia Boy sausages left from the cook out, which are rich and spicy and not at all greasy. The Les Dauphins wine was perfect with this meal. It’s light, fruity flavors played off the rich meat and spices from the food. This wine also would go well with roasts, grilled chicken, rich casseroles, cheeses and salads.